DJ Controller Shopping (Part 1)

It started innocently enough. I noticed that Numark was unloading refurb DMC2 controllers for dirt-cheap. For $170 I may as well grab one and start exploring software computer based DJing. Right? Hmm. We'll see.

This will be a shift in DJ hardware ideology for me. I like a minimal rig: Dual CD deck, mixer, powered speakers. I'd prefer to simplify my system further by replacing the CD player with a dual media player component. The industry has only produced a few such players which I generally find too over priced or under featured to justify replacing my CD deck.

The industry has instead fixated on integrating or emulating traditional turntables. Tell me if this sounds efficient to you: Special 'time code' records on two turntables send signals to USB devices that convert signals to a stream that controls the speed of software player on a computer that then sends the music to an sound interface then to a traditional mixer (or using a USB mixer controller). This introduces latency and/or contention at every device in the chain. All the elegance of vinyl is lost in this clusterfuck.

Computers themselves are such complex devices they bring overhead and excess to a DJ rig, even if you use a more streamlined controller with a mixer control and sound interface built in. Because of this I'm very resistant to using software at all, but controller/computer solutions are becoming the most accessible option to eliminate CDs

So I'm thinking about it. I'm going to think aloud here on the blog maybe clear my head and save someone else a bit of brain time who faces the same dilemma. 

As mentioned my first consideration was the Numark DMC2. I demoed the bundled 'Cue' software which is a version of Virtual DJ. I liked the software well enough. The DMC2 is actually a modified version of the control panel from the CD player I use, the Numark CDN-90. I haven't had my hands on a DMC2 and don't fully trust that this early effort from Numark will be quite right, but for under $200, it's very tempting. No conclusion yet.

I did stop by Performance Audio and talked to their resident DJ gear-head. He had unboxed a Numark HDMIX to play with. In theory this should be the perfect unit for me: A mass storage media player combined with a mixer. This unit was suspiciously inexpensive though. It was near impossible to set precise cue points and the BPM sensor struggled with simple 4/4 track I tested. I didn't find a way to store cue points per file. It had only one loop per player... I wasted to much time on this toy. Not only have I dismissed it, but now there is now way I'll consider any other Numark device I can't physically test to verify all the features I need function well. (The DDS80 looks like the same player minus the mixer.)

We then broke out the Omni Control and just twiddled the knobs. It's a controller and sound interface. (The Stealth Control is the same component minus the sound interface.) Next week I'll stop by and play with it in conjunction with a computer. Again, I'm suspicious. The case is sturdy metal construction but all the knobs and sliders are Fisher-price quality, though I haven't yet read complaints about them falling apart. Information on the sound interface is sparse at best: 16 bit, 48 kHz. No info on D/A hardware, latency, bit-rate processing. If a company isn't bragging about that stuff it must suck. I'll see what I think about it after I actually use it.

Overall Numark products are looking pretty disappointing. I've loved my CD player, found it's features very useful and innovative, and wondered why Numark get abused so much in some of the forums I participate in. It's becoming evident to me that they are not serious about building quality hardware. 

(Stay tuned for my thoughts on the Pioneer, Denon, M-Audio, and Vestax options.)