What should digital DJing look like? It’s an open question. If you aren’t willing to contend with the (potentially-unreliable) combination of real vinyl control records with computers, the question becomes what DJing technique hardware should embody. Writing for CDM, Ambivalent of Minus Records was most enthusiastic about advanced hardware mixing in Allen & Heath’s Xone:DB4. Boutique manufacturer Faderfox focuses instead on advanced, four-deck effects and control, minus the big, record-mimicking platters.

The big players, though, are focused on a kitchen-sink approach that combines turntable controllers with integrating mix, effect, and transport controls with software. We saw Native Instruments’ Kontrol S4, integrated with their own Traktor software, in August. Now, Pioneer and Numark are showing up to the NAMM trade show with their own entries. Numark has one dedicated to Serato; Pioneer is actually releasing two devices, one for Serato and one for Traktor.

Here’s a snapshot view of that hardware. Interestingly, while other manufacturers (inexplicably, I think) try to time all their announcements for tomorrow, Pioneer and Numark seemed eager to get out ahead of the other announcements.

Pioneer DDJ

Pioneer DDJ-S1
Pricing: US$1599 suggested retail
Software: Serato ITCH
Availability: March 2011

Specs:

  • Two-deck design (perhaps a demerit, but I think nonetheless likely to be popular, as four deck operation is far from a given with most DJs)
  • Inputs for two mics, one aux (RCA)
  • Balanced master outputs (2x XLR, 1x RCA)
  • Plug-and-play USB connection
  • Effect controls, deck controls
  • Library navigation, including an LED that shows you position, search, and slip playback (and needle drop-style transport, as on the Numark)

S1 US Product Page

Pioneer DDJ-T1
Pricing: US$1299
Availability: February 2011

Specs are similar to the S1, but with:

  • Four deck operation
  • Less visual feedback: in exchange, you give up the LEDs with position, VUs. (Personally, I like the four decks, but more of this will break down to preference for Traktor versus Serato.)

T1 US Product Page

Smartest marketing pitch: Pioneer touts that the design and audio fidelity both come from pro Pioneer DJ equipment. That could be a strong selling point, and a draw for people who have been loyal to Pioneer hardware who haven’t yet made the leap to the computer – even if the Numark is cheaper and does four channels of mixing.

Good analysis elsewhere: DJ Tech Tools has extensive practical analysis of both designs.

Numark NS6

Pricing: €999/£799 (not sure on US$ price)
Software: Serato ITCH

Specs:

  • 4-channel DJ mixer with standalone operation
  • 24-bit audio interface with balanced XLR output
  • Touch-sensitive, illuminated wheels with 3600 ticks of resolution
  • Effect controls, deck controls
  • Library navigation
  • USB connection, sends standard MIDI messages

Tasteless product branding award goes to… “Strip Search,” a handy feature (emulating needle drop onto tracks) that unfortunately recalls enhanced security at airports. Bad. Worse, on the NS6, it’s “enhanced strip search.”

Good analysis elsewhere: Skratchworx has some smart insights, including the likelihood of Traktor and Virtual DJ mappings and a competitive price. They actually give the nod to Numark here on price, build, and having two extra channels.

http://www.numark.com/ns6

Snap Reactions

What about the jog wheels? And what about NI? Pioneer and Numark may both face stiff competition from Native Instruments. NI frequently emphasizes to me the quality of the wheels on their Traktor Kontrol S4, which use eddy current breaks so that as you rotate them faster, resistance increases, making the feel more natural for the control scheme. And speaking of NI, they have announcements coming this week, too.

What about space in a DJ booth? Even in some pretty high-end, spacious clubs, DJ booth real estate is at a premium. It’s hard to imagine comfortably pulling off what Numark has in their screenshot at top. Pioneer has designed their controllers in such a way that they fit over top of the keyboard on your computer. (See image below) Advantage: Pioneer.

Is this really the kind of DJ controller everyone wants? This is my big question. Integrating with DJ software in this way certainly looks practical. But I can’t help but wonder if these designs won’t change over time as DJing is no longer about turntables. That could make unique new touch interfaces or Ableton Live controllers or unusual assemblages of looping hardware something that differentiates DJs.

I think the Pioneer units are prettier. I’m sorry. I’m shallow.

What do you think? Let us know in comments.

  • http://www.hispasonic.com Mudo

    The numark is the best and the low price!

    Pio Fail…

  • http://www.technoetc.net/blog Andrew O'Malley

    I definitely think these type of controllers are bordering on impracticality in terms of size: I wouldn't want to carry one around, nor find room for one in a booth that already has CDJ's, etc. One of the advantages to digital dj'ing to me is being able to fit everything I need into a regular backpack.

  • http://regend.com Regend

    interesting. very interesting. it makes sense that companies are creating controllers. they want product to sell in masses but i see these as consumer/pro-sumer/ mobile DJ products and i doubt these would work installed at a venue since CDJ's or 1200's are already installed in most venues.

  • http://www.al-farah.com Islamic Women Clothe

    What a controllers!!! Awesome. Just too good.

  • Puzzler

    I've been burned by NuMark's unreliable build quality in the past, so I'd be very hesitant to count on an NS6 without a couple of years of first hand reports. Pioneer DJ gear has held up been pretty darn well for me and everyone else that I know (my old CDJ100s were near indestructible). Must say though, that I've grown weary of Pioneer's inflated prices.

    At this point though, gear like this seems somewhat out of kilter with what I need. The Pioneer DDJ is close to what I used to dream about as the ultimate CD-J deck(s) but as a laptop controller, it seems like it's trying to bring too much of the CDJ paradigm into laptop DJing. Personally, what I really want, is to get rid of the laptop! A laptop is out of whack with what I would ever design for DJ gigs and and seems to me that many of these products are going to ridiculous lengths to make it all work.

    So, I don't want to just be a hater. Here's my dream setup:

    - a mixer with a built in display (7-10 inches) in the *center* so I can keep my focus right there, on the mixer and controllers, like when I spin vinyl or CDs. I won't need to peer (or squint) at the laptop.

    - Many USB 3.0 ports for external controllers, external music and software storage

    - the mixer has standard controllers mapped to a (new) industry standard that all DJ software can support

    - the mixer has simple built in DJ software. Good enough to get the job done. (reliability is the priority!). It doesn't need to have a gazillion features because…

    - the mixer has the ability to bypass the built in DJ software and run other DJ software that I supply (e.g. on a USB flash drive) that can use the built display and controllers and…

    - the mixer can support external controllers

    - the mixer has the usual audio outs, headphone outs, etc.

    Mixers like this becomes the common club gear and because they support some basic industry standards, you can then show up at the gig, plug in your USB flash drives with your music and you're good to go. Add your (optional) flash drive with your preferred DJ software and your (optional) super whizzy controller.

    Anyway, that's my little slice of future DJ thinking. Comments, suggestions?

  • http://radionarcotix.com Alexander Tregaskis

    Beautiful! Although I'd be more pleased if they made a modular system, where you can separate the mixer from the decks for different setup options or just to make it easier to transport. The size is a bit clunky for one unit.

  • http://www.robpointer.com Rob Pointer

    I have had the Numark V7 units for several months now after switching to Itch from Traktor Scratch Pro (which I have used for years under its various incarnations).

    I also own the X1 and Maschine (which gives me a sense of NI's build quality with the S4 which is made with the same quality production materials and assembly).

    Let me tell you – the Numark V7s and the NS7 is of VERY high quality. In fact, I'm shocked how well constructed the V7 unit is. I use it to take to gigs (I play at places like Avalon in Hollywood) and it is ROCK SOLID. It is heavy like a real technic turntable and has held up to all kinds of usage.

    I can recommend it without hesitation – and I think the NS6 is clearly going to be of the same quality.

    Pioneer is really smart with their controller strategy – with the video that came out today it is quite clear they are communicating how this is a good way for DJs that are very comfortable with their CDJs as their weapon of choice then they will migrate to this and enjoy the benefits even more. They are hedging their bets wisely by partnering up with NI and Serato. But it is noteworthy to see that the Itch controller is more expensive and is marketed to as a solution that whiffs of being more "pro" whereas the Traktor version is oriented for "bedroom" guys. This is all nonsense to people who DJ using whatever tools work for them whether its marketed as bedroom or not – use what works.

    But right now the player to beat in the Itch space for sheer value, construction qaulity and features is Numark. They really this one out of the park with the NS6. I'll be getting it as soon as it is available.

    The only real negative to the unit as it stands is that it does not have individual meters per channel – but this is more of a problem when trying to monitor analog sources visually as the Itch software has a built in limiter that helps with volumes (not to mention the NS6 is a full analog mixer and has all the appropriate cue options needed to mix with your ears unlike the other units – which have inexplicably left out a separate booth monitor option which is hugely crippling if you want to install one of these permanently without needing another mixer to plug it into).

    NS6 takes the trophy for today. Isn't competition great? :)

  • midijunkie

    personally if i got any one for my b-day or as a gift i'd be very very happy. :P

  • jsph

    I love the needle search feature in the pioneers. They look nice also. I can't wait for the bridge for itch but I doubt I could afford the DDJ-S1. 

  • erik_hz

    These are neat, but just too much$, too big, and are just trying to be some thing that already exists in most setups currently in use. They simply emulate DJing on a CDJ setup with something like Traktor or Serato. Sure there is something to be said for the way that they enable you to mix like you normally would, but is there enough appeal to make the switch?  Not for me, not until there is a clear winner that enables most DJs to walk into a party with only their laptop, and plug in(or better yet connect over wireless) seamlessly and reliably every time.  Until then, these will undoubtedly remain expensive toys for those that wish they had the real thing.  

  • px82

    I completely agree with erik_hz. I only have a setup with Technics and Pionner using serato scratch. And been dabling latelly with a custom built controller with Ipad and Akai LPK and traktor.

    I´m thinking of making the switch to complete digital 1st because I love the idea of 4 decks and loops, and lets be honest we will have to do it with sync as even Mr Carl Cox would have a hard time keeping 4 decks in sync with loops (no disrespect intended). 2nd cause It´s not good to disconnect and reconect cables for a DVJ when your fellow DJ is playing and u have 500 people in front of you.

    The clubs will take ages to change (I dont see that many CDJ2000 yet) and even just a simple traktor cable is not that common but a thing there isnt is space, so where would you fit one of these? On top of CDJ's and the mixer?

    Makes no sense for me that on a recessed economy this big companies are investing on what's out there already instead of building something new.

    Anyways Just my 2ct.

  • Brian Williams

    Pioneers are the best looking for sure, Im not huge on deck dj'ing but it does have its benefits so these new controllers are definitely appealing and its about time people started taking this sector of the market seriously. Especially seeing that decks these days are always going to be behind software in terms of what they can offer. 

    I will wait for reviews, curious to know why the S4 wasn't included in this post though. 

  • Brad Giezentanner

    I have a NS7 w/ itch and TTX's w/ Traktor Scratch Pro. The NS7 is the most rugged beautiful piece of equipment I have ever owned. Downside "ITCH". Processor heavy application for sure! Perfect Solution? THE NS6 W/ TRAKTOR S4 SOFTWARE. Are you listening numark. All of your faithfull users have been begging for a response from you and Support for using your hardware with Traktor and to this day there is still no word from you. SAY SOMETHING!!!!!GEEZ!!!!!

  • http://djkor7.com DJKOR7

    Pioneer all the way baby! Looks better, more well thought out, more reliable than Numark. Price is what I'd expect for Pioneer. Make it $999.99 and you'd corner the DJ market on this one. Trust me. – djkor7.com

  • http://djkor7.com DJKOR7

    I love the fact that Pioneer made a seperate controller for Serato and Traktor. 'Bout time! Very impressive! Just please reduce the price on these…please.

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  • http://dontcare Dj Kad

    That's the longest spam message i've ever found

  • http://www.lightsounds.com.au lightsounds

    ^^^ haha how do these spammers think this will work :/

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathan.daniels.5621 Daniels Jonathan

    Pioneer makes sense especially the shape you don’t always have space in the box for a controller and a laptop

  • Waiz Hamza

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    Features

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