Link: Numark — Price $150/€149/£120

Numark Mixtrack Edge DJ Controller review (1)

Introduction

The world of DJ controllers is an ever-evolving one, where shapes and sizes are constantly being messed with to discover form factors that fit the needs of the buyers. And just when you think you’ve seen them all, along comes the constantly innovating Numark and their new Mixtrack Edge, a unit that takes on the general aesthetic of an iPad, but with real tactile controls. It even has a built-in cover to mimic the overall look and feel of Apple’s game changing tablet, one that means it’s ultra portable but does have everything you need, including an audio interface to rock a crowd right from your laptop. The Edge sure does pack a punch from such a small frame. But is that punch powerful enough? Read on…

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In A Nutshell

The Numark Mixtrack Edge is a bus powered all-in-one controller, with built-in in headphone and master out ports, and a wide choice of controls, ready to be mapped to your MIDI software of choice. It comes with Virtual DJ LE (an uncharacteristically unskinned one) to offer a real plug and play experience. It’s worth stressing that despite the obvious iPad design cues, the Mixtrack Edge doesn’t work with iPads just yet. We can but hope. And by hope I mean it better had do or else.

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First Impressions

I should start by explaining the form factor. It obviously oozes iPadism, being of a similar but slightly larger size, a little  heavier (reassuringly so) and having a similar built-in cover that unfolds to sit on the underside of the Mixtrack Edge to form a solid base with little rubber feet. This leaves the ins and outs clear for access too, and indeed is supplied with right angle cables to also clear your laptop too. Sorry Mustafa — this doesn’t really need a Decksaver.

And being the size and weight that it is, the Mixtrack Edge becomes the idea travel partner. It’ll happily fit into your laptop bag with all your other trappings and only add couple of pounds to the load. And because it’s USB powered, there’s no power supply to lug around either. From a mobility point of view, everything has been thought of.

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From a quality perspective, it’s what can be expected from a unit of this price. The case is a weighty mixture of impenetrable plastic and brushed metal faceplate, combined with a liberal sprinkling of Numark’s customary hard plastic buttons. Every one of these is overprinted in silver to match the faceplate, and has a very sturdy click. There’s no wishy-washy rubber button vagueness here, and each one is backed up by very bright single colour LEDs.

The jog wheels do a sterling job of what Virtual DJ asks of them without delusions of grandeur. They’re motion but not touch sensitive, but do turn smoothly, offering pitch bend, scratch, scrub, and browse controls.

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The minor niggles come with the faders and rotaries, and are perhaps the biggest sacrifice that Numark has made to get the Edge into its slim form factor. They’re incredibly low profile, to the point where they can’t be gripped fully, but are more suited to being pushed in true mixing desk style. They’re also not super smooth either, and the faders in particular wobble a little more than I’m used to. I’m not unhappy with them as such, and find that they work well enough for the task at hand, but you won’t be pulling off crabs on them.

Overall the Numark Mixtrack Edge is very much built for the price. The controls, while compromised for the form factor, operate perfectly well and should allow you to deliver a set once you’re acclimatised to the layout and minimised controls.

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The Layout

Controller layouts are setting down into a fairly standard 2 decks and a mixer format. It usually works with mixer and browse controls in the middle, and an FX/jog/transport and cue layout on each side. It’s tried and tested, and seems to work best for everyone. And the Mixtrack is no exception.

There are a couple of differences to this that are largely down to layout compromises due to the form factor. Firstly, there is only a 2 band EQ (good old fashioned bass and treble) and no gain. Not an ideal situation for the more seasoned DJs out there, but good enough for beginners. Pros should have enough experience to work around this limitation though.

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My biggest issue is the lack of dedicated pitch control. You have to press and hold the pitch button, once to engage pitch bend, or hold and turn the jog wheel to engage pitch. While the face of DJing is changing, I still think that having a separate pitch control (even if it’s a rotary) is preferable for all DJs, be they beginner or pro.

I feel that the Numark Mixtrack Edge suffers a little from trying to do too much with a small unit. The digital age has brought with it 2 needs that go head to head with each other — more features, but less space to do it with. These days, with effects, loops, hot cues, and now samples being the norm for all levels of DJs, more is being asked of our controllers, making it hard for manufacturers to squeeze everything in. Had Numark left them off, you’d only be moaning about the lack of features. And ultimately, this is not a performance unit.

That said, it’s a MIDI controller, that you can map to just about anything until you’re happy. It took me no time to knock up a solid map for algoriddim’s djay. The Edge comes with Virtual DJ LE 7.4.1 that works just fine, and a Traktor mapping is also available.

I also see this being a useful secondary controller for DVS as well as it’s the perfect width to sit above mixers. And lending itself well to overlays, you should soon be able to map the Numark Mixtrack Edge to something more than just a simple 2 channel controller. The jog wheels for example work well as filters. Just a thought.

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In Use

Once you’ve got used to the things that you can and can’t do, as well as those that you can do with some mental tweaks to workflow, the Numark Mixtrack Edge works really well. It may not have every single new software and hardware toy built-in, but what it does have is the core features necessary for party rocking, as well as the now standard features necessary to keep modern DJs happy too.

I love that it fits into a small bag with my laptop, that it’s bus powered and that it’s really simple to set up, play with, and customise. Any issues I might have with it are more down to me being used to bigger and more capable units, rather than problems with the Numark Mixtrack Edge itself. I do underline that I feel it tries to do too much with the limited controls. A separate pitch control and perhaps 3 band EQ would have been nice.

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Summing Up

For £120, the Numark Mixtrack Edge is a excellent performer. While it only costs a little less that the Mixtrack Pro, you’re paying for portability, in the same way that you pay more for a laptop even though it’s slower than the desktop equivalent.

I feel it’s an ideal space efficient first controller for a lot of people to try DJing, and also a very handy go anywhere device to use as an on the road device or as a backup. I think that the latter application is more apt, as a beginner is better off going for the larger and slightly more expensive Mixtrack Pro II or similar to get a better feel for DJing. And I suspect that it’ll just be a matter of time before an iDJ version of the Edge comes out too, or for app makers to map this ideal controller for their assorted offerings.

Hats off to Numark for once again daring to be different. They’ve once again pushed (or should that be shrunk) the boundaries of DJing, and made possibly the most portable controller that follows the established DJ workflow. As long as you don’t expect it to be capable of festival style performances, the Mixtrack Edge offers fun, functionality, and portability in a very wallet friendly package.

Ratings

Quality
Classic if low profile Numark with the usual hard plastic buttons. It’s very solid bar the slightly wobbly faders, that you won’t be hammering anyway.

Features
The Mixtrack Edge has everything you need, but does have just a little too much functionality crammed into the same controls at the expense of physical ones.

Value For Money
It’s not a lot of cash, generally feels good and comes with a built-in audio interface. It fills a very specific need so it’s hard to put a price on it.

The Bottom Line

The Numark Mixtrack Edge is unique in the market and does a lot for the cash. If travelling light is your thing, it’s well worth the investment.

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