LINK: Numark | PRICE: $249/€238/£169 | MANUAL: PDF
Numark absolutely smashed the controller game out of the park with the original Mixtrack Pro. Sales were off the established scale, and literally (not metaphorically) sold twice as much as the nearest competitor to become as close to a standard entry level controller as you can get in a rapidly moving market.
We’ve seen the Mixtrack Pro II come and go but not get the same response as the first, leaving us with the followup. And it is generally accepted that the third in a trilogy is usually considered to be a poor imitation to the original — a rinse too far as it were. So let’s unbox the all new Mixtrack Pro 3 (not III) and see if it tries to be a better Mixtrack Pro, or strives to be something different from the rest of the increasingly cookie cutter pack.
IN A NUTSHELL
The Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 is a Serato DJ Intro fuelled two channel controller. It has all the necessary features considered to be entry level, and can deliver a solid performance straight out of the box. It is USB powered and only has RCA unbalanced ports on the back, but does offer just about everything a beginner needs to get going as a DJ.
For the record, I feel this is going to be a first time buy for most people, so I won’t be wasting time making comparisons to the old version. Well… maybe some, but with good reason.
Hmmm… there’s the initial burst of established Numark brand experience — from the packaging, to the contents and the very fist experience of the hardware, this is classic Numark. But the product is something else.
The design cues are clear. Much of this is taken from the Numark NV, and if it had a red base on it, it would happily sit in the evolving Akai Pro range too. The form factor is very interesting and refreshing — instead of trying to cram everything into a tiny space, the Mixtrack Pro 3 is shallow but wide (the same width as the NV it seems), giving a lot of space around controls.
For the price, the build is solid. I don’t think that anyone would expect a sea of metal for £169, but that doesn’t mean that all plastic means flimsy. Giving it a shake yields not a single rattle, and all the controls feel sturdy enough to take some reasonable punishment. And I do love the slab (or dare I say Slate) styling — less is more, and thankfully a lot of the garish Chrome has gone. Can we ditch the Chrome jogs too please in future?
The light show is good — bright enough that I could use it on my desk in the excessively bright Worxlab, and equally at home in a darker environment too. But with such an open layout, it’s hard to get confused anyway.
Overall, the Mixtrack Pro 3 is a good looking controller and punches above its weight for the money from an aesthetics and quality perspective. Now let’s get to the detail.
The design of this section holds no surprises, as it has been done over and over in the last few years. You get 2 channels with three band EQ to kill with a dual hi/low pass filter, which is something you don’t always find. What you don’t get is a gain control. The previous one didn’t have it, and while the experienced DJ in me misses it, we’re in an age where software limiters keep things in check.
The simple browse controls work well, and are assisted by shift controls to allow navigation around your library. This is definitely a tried and tested method and honed over the last few years.
The faders are 45mm with the line faders being a tad stiffer to help with mixing control, and there’s also a software crossfader curve in the preferences. And despite appearances, you can’t swap out the crossfader — the key line is nothing more than a design detail.
The metering is sparse — three greens, an amber, and a single red LED, and for the master out only. The reality is that if you’re hitting red, turn stuff down, or just let the auto-limiter keep things in check. You can always learn about best audio practices when you upgrade to a more capable controller.
The jog wheel is more or less the same as the NV — touch sensitive, free-spinning, and working as a pitch bend or shift-track scrubber when not being used for scratching. Speaking of which, this jog offers very good scratch performance for the money. You’ll definitely be able to pull off a few decent tricks, and with the sharp fader curve, crabs are very doable. Don’t expect brilliant juggling or accurate spin backs unless you stare at the screen as there’s no visual feedback on the Mixtrack Pro 3 itself.
Surprisingly for a compact and cost-effective unit, there are full-sized 100mm pitch faders. They’re stiff and should ideally help beginners grasp the finer points of pitch control without reaching for the sync button. But as great as this is, I find the lack of zero point detent combined with the lack of zero point LED to be a serious omission. This means that you always have to look at the screen, which is just as well because the screen readout does not match the hardware markings in any way. I imagine that this is a simple calibration issue though, but you can’t software upgrade a centre click or add a light.
The Mixtrack Pro 3 lets you assign three Serato DJ Intro effects per deck, which for the beginner is more than enough. These are managed by the touch strip (some Intro controllers have no knobs, let alone a touch strip) , and controls the single parameter for each one at the same time with a separate beats control.
It’s nice that there are three different effects, but the touch strip isn’t the right way to control the effects. Without individual control knobs for each effect, you have to reach across to your laptop and awkwardly tweak each control. For me, this is a big step backwards — I understand why, and we’ll get to that later.
As seems to be the way with Serato DJ Intro focussed products, the full glory of the full 8 pad multi-function Serato DJ experience is distilled down into essentials. Firstly, they’re a lot smaller than they used to be, and while quite sturdy I was able to push them under the faceplate in one particularly vigorous pad bashing session. They do pop out easily though.
Unlike the full 8 pad experience, the Mixtrack Pro 3 gives you 2 rows of 4. The top row is dedicated to loops and samples, whereas the bottom row is for hot cues only. I have no problems with the hot cue functionality, but auto-loop functionality feels limited. I tried but couldn’t get anything less that a 1 beat loop or anything more than 8 beats. Manual looping felt better, but frustration levels were soon high. Jared experienced similar frustrations with the Slate 4, which suggests that Serato and their hardware partners need to work on this.
INS AND OUTS
This bit definitely won’t take long. You get unbalanced RCA outputs, a mic in, and phono/minijack headphones — and nothing else. This is completely bare-bones, and doesn’t really need much else for the target market. Side note — the headphone output is LOUD.
This is a real plug and play experience. Throw your tracks into Intro and you’re off. Syncing works on a very simple level, and should allow you to match beats pretty accurately. And you get just enough of everything else to allow beginners to grasp the basics without getting caught up in the need for more bells and whistles. DJing is after all about mixing music, and the Mixtrack Pro lets you do that perfectly.
I really have nothing more to say about this. It works, and that’s all you need to know.
WORTH THE SERATO DJ UPGRADE?
I don’t know if there’s a straight answer to that. Check this chart to see the difference, but most of the reason to upgrade is to access things like expansion packs, and opening up the iOS Serato DJ Remote to give access to all those features that the MixTrack Pro 3 can’t deliver. I think that if you’re at a point where the MTP3 doesn’t offer enough, put that Serato DJ upgrade money into a more capable controller. Coincidentally the Numark NV comes in at a rather attractive £499 including Serato DJ and offers a more complete experience for Serato DJ.
But one thing I cannot abide and must keep mentioning when it’s appropriate is the lack of internal recording. This is not the fault of Numark, but is a deliberate Serato decision. It actually makes me angry that Serato feels that such a feature is strictly for more experienced DJs. Beginners especially need to record and playback their epic moments and equally listen to the car crashes so that they can learn. So be warned – if you want to record, you’re going to have to find an external hardware route (which the lack of outputs makes hard), or stump up the cost of the full Serato DJ experience.
As an experienced DJ, it’s hard for me to not fall into the trap of what’s missing on the Mixtrack Pro 3 (even though the MTP3 is an ideal backup machine). So I need to remove that hat and look at what it offers the target audience, and for them that’s a solid user experience. It’s 100% plug and play, has enough bells and whistles to keep a beginner happy, and offers a good environment to learn the craft of the modern day DJ. If a beginner sticks with it (and a lot don’t), there’s just enough to let them get to know how all this DJing malarkey works, with a clear upgrade path to the NV.
Granted, there are things that are broken, confusing, and plain wrong, but much of that probably comes from my sage experience. But from a new user perspective, the Mixtrack Pro 3 is a very safe bet indeed. It also comes with a bunch of bundles samples and loops, which may end up just taking up space on your laptop, but these things are always welcome.
Parting quotable — the Mixtrack Pro 3 is pitched perfectly as a first purchase for budding DJs out there. And once they’ve got the basics down, a logical upgrade path to the more professional Numark NV is the next step.