Numark NS7 / Numark NSFX review

With Numark releasing their NS7 DJ controller last year and their brand new add-on, the NSFX effects controller this year, Juno Plus’ Ben Daly explores both offerings to find out what all the fuss is about.

Numark’s NS7 is a USB DJ controller designed by Numark in collaboration with Serato. Serato’s specially developed ITCH software ships with the NS7, and with no tweaking or mapping needed, works straight out of the box.

The NSFX is Numark’s effects controller that seamlessly integrates with the NS7 & Itch for hands-on control of Itch’s wide range of built-in effects.

The NS7 is an extremely well built, robust piece of kit that’s built like a tank and quite frankly, weighs a ton. Its size is fairly substantial too, being only marginally smaller than a set of turntables in the turntablist position and a slim scratch mixer. For an all-in-one DJ solution it’s by no means cumbersome though, and wouldn’t be out of place in a club or home setup.

Inspecting the NS7 closely, it’s clear that Numark have pulled out all the stops on this one. The buttons, faders and rotary knobs feel incredibly durable and have either a grippy rubberized texture or a brushed aluminum style finish. With an all-metal and stylish brushed aluminum style finish, Numark haven’t scrimped on the casing either. In terms of audio quality, there’s 24-bit resolution through gold-plated phono (RCA) sockets, balanced XLR sockets, ¼ inch jack sockets and 3.5mm jack sockets taking care of the inputs and outputs.

“Using the NS7 and NSFX together inevitably makes for some interesting and creative results. With the NSFX adding depth and spice to the mix with it’s interesting effects, and the NS7’s looping tools and hot cues mangling and mashing the sound, new and exciting mixes can be achieved”

Starting in the top-left of the NS7’s top panel, let’s navigate around the controls. The strip search is a useful feature Numark have added for jumping to a particular point in the track and by placing a finger on a point along this sensor, achieves the desired results. Directly below this, you’ll find the track forward and back buttons, which are for skipping to next track or back to the previous track. Below this is a tap tempo button which, when tapped in time with the track playing, helps the software detect a more accurate BPM reading. The bleep/reverse switch changes the direction of the platter and can yield some interesting results. To the right are the ‘start time’ and ‘stop time’ knobs which control the rate at which the playback shifts from ‘play’ to ‘pause’ and from ‘pause’ to ‘play’. Above this is the ‘scratch off’ button which disables the platter motor and brings it to a stop. The keylock button to the left of the platter is useful for to returning the track’s pitch to its original key while keeping the track’s tempo at the speed designated by the pitch fader.

Below this is the pitch range button, used for adjusting the range of the pitch fader to ±8%, ±16%, and ±50%. Then there’s the pitch fader which controls the track’s playback speed. Below this are the pitch bend (+/-) buttons. Pressing or holding down either of these buttons will temporarily adjust the track’s playback speed. When released, the track playback will return to the speed designated by the pitch fader. To the right are the cue controls, where hot cues can be set for skipping to particular points in the track. Below these are the playback controls, which include the play/pause button, the cue button and the sync button for automatically matching the deck’s tempo with the other deck’s tempo. In the centre of the deck is the platter, which has a high torque motor akin to that of any professional turntable and although it’s only seven inches in size, doesn’t feel too small or flimsy in any way. Above the platter are the loop controls, which have all the necessary buttons for creating loops and changing their length or position in the track.

“The buttons, faders and rotary knobs feel incredibly durable and have either a grippy rubberized texture or a brushed aluminum style finish”

The mixer in the centre of the NS7 has a clean simple layout and is primarily a two-channel scratch mixer. All the controls you’d expect from any decent mixer are present, along with the additional navigation controls at the very top of the mixer. The navigation controls are used for scrolling through and selecting the tracks in Itch without having to touch the computer to do so. The mixer features two channel faders, a crossfader, an LED level meter, bass, mid and treble knobs, a gain trim knob, a master volume knob, a booth volume knob, a headphone mix fader, a headphone mode switch, a meter mode switch, fader start switches, a motor torque switch, a crossfader reverse switch, a crossfader contour knob and a BPM meter to aid tempo matching of both decks.

On the front panel, Numark have included a mic input with gain, bass and treble controls and an aux input for connecting a line-level device, such as a CD player, sampler or audio interface.

Switching on the NS7, the first thing you notice is just how loud the cooling fans are. This shouldn’t cause a problem in use, as it’s only really noticeable when no music is playing. The backlit buttons become apparent when switched on, and are either red or white. In a darkened club or general low-light conditions, this is a huge bonus as almost all of the buttons are backlit so operation is unhindered in inferior conditions.

Looking over the NSFX now, it has a clear, uncluttered layout and a similar look and feel to the NS7. It feels similarly sturdy and has the same rubberized fader, knobs and buttons as the NS7. Some of the rotary knobs and buttons also have the red or white backlighting found on the NS7.

“A quick perusal of the Itch interface reveals a simple, user-friendly program that doesn’t over-complicate or lack either. Anyone who’s used Serato’s Scratchlive DJ software before will instantly feel at home using Itch but newcomers needn’t worry as Itch is very intuitive to use and only a few minutes using the software is enough to get to grips with it”

With both the NS7 & NSFX given the once over, it’s time to find out how they work together with the Itch software. Installing Itch is a breeze and, after connecting the NS7 & NSFX, is ready to use. The NS7 & NSFX each require an available USB port on your computer which may cause problems for users with limited USB ports but won’t hinder others.

A quick perusal of the Itch interface reveals a simple, user-friendly program that doesn’t over-complicate or lack either. Anyone who’s used Serato’s Scratchlive DJ software before will instantly feel at home using Itch but newcomers needn’t worry as Itch is very intuitive to use and only a few minutes using the software is enough to get to grips with it. As the NS7, NSFX and Itch have all been designed to work seamlessly with each other, this is exactly what you get. Every control and parameter is mapped to a corresponding knob, button or fader on the NS7 and NSFX.

The responsiveness of the NS7 and NSFX is second to none, with the NS7 responding just as a traditional turntable and DJ mixer would, and the NSFX behaving exactly as a dedicated hardware effects unit would.

The NSFX’s effects are unsurprisingly of a very high quality and are all useful and useable effects. The effects included are high-pass filter, low-pass filter, phaser, flanger, tremolo, repeater, reverser, braker, crusher, delay, echo and reverb. The NSFX has a source knob for selecting where the effect will be sent to. This is switchable between deck a, deck b, aux and the main output. To the right is an FX select knob for choosing an effect. To the right is an FX mix fader for adjusting the amount of effect used. Next to that is an FX parameter knob for adjusting the resonance, timing or some other parameter of an effect. To the right is an FX on/off button and next to that is a tap tempo button for matching the tempo of an effect to that of the tracks tempo.

Using the NS7 and NSFX together inevitably makes for some interesting and creative results. With the NSFX adding depth and spice to the mix with it’s interesting effects, and the NS7’s looping tools and hot cues (up to five) mangling and mashing the sound, new and exciting mixes can be achieved.

A very nifty feature of the Itch software is the ability to record your DJ mixes directly onto the computer’s hard drive without the need for an external hard drive or another computer to record onto.

In use, the NS7 and NSFX are great together and alongside the awesome Itch software, Numark and Serato have created a winning hardware-meets-software DJ solution that deserves a place in the DJ equipment hall of fame.

Review: Ben Daly

Learn more about the Numark NS7 and NSFX at Juno Records.