Numark is a brand name that has been around since the dawn of DJing as we know it, gaining an enviable reputation for making DJ mixers before branching out into the huge range of products that now bears their name.
Their reputation for kit that gets the job done has been solid but they haven’t quite grabbed the heady attention like companies such as Pioneer in the pro arena by perhaps going a little too far with their cost cutting measures when designing their budget ranges but the one thing that could never be said about Numark is that they are afraid to take a risk. Products like Numark’s DJ2GO have proven that Numark are not snobbish and happy to design controllers for those with a tight budget as well as taking risks by releasing products that are a marked departure from the norm and will likely cater to niche markets. The tide has been turning in favour of Numark as far as the company’s reputation for reliable good products and build quality thanks to the high standard of their more recent product releases.
The latest product to hit the shelves from Numark is the Orbit MIDI controller and it is one of the most interesting and intriguing pieces of musical equipment to be released in a long time. The curiosity aspect of the Orbit is further piqued by Numark’s claims of the Orbit being wearable tech for the DJ booth but more on that later. What Numark have actually produced with the Orbit is a very clever and feature packed wireless MIDI controller that is very easily mistaken for a highly advanced Playstation controller or even possibly a hand held video games console. While the Orbit undoubtedly resembles a piece of gaming equipment this actually gives a kitsch cuteness to the character of this controller and once the Orbit is liberated from its packaging and into a pair of hands where it belongs the rather excellent design and top notch build quality are immediately evident. Things get even better once the Orbit is powered on and the control surface lights up with ultra bright RGB backlit pad style buttons and an LED halo ring around the huge jog wheel style knob at the centre of the unit displaying an uber cool start up sequence without a connected cable in sight.
The Orbit has some serious technology packed into its small and very lightweight plastic body, not only is this controller wireless it also has a built in USB rechargeable battery, X and Y accelerometers to sense when the unit is being tilted and providing MIDI control based on these movements. Despite the fact that the Orbit is battery powered Numark have managed to equip this controller with some seriously bright LEDs which backlight every pad style button on the control surface and are perfectly visible even in bright daylight. When it comes to the case Numark have managed to get the balance between sturdy and lightweight just right and the Orbit feels like a precision engineered device that will stand the test of time, the rubberised style plastic case also feels very nice indeed giving a similar tactile sensation to the rubber pads used on the multitude of buttons and the balance of this controller is also just right. All of the components come together perfectly to produce a very slick product that is both stylish and very well finished especially when considering the very modest purchase price of the Orbit.
When it comes to MIDI controllers no matter how many bells and whistles are packed into the box as a product they stand and fall on the design and usability of their control surface. At the very centre of the Orbit’s control surface is a large jog wheel style knob with a gorgeous halo style ring of LEDs to provide visual feedback of the current setting, sitting above the knob are four buttons which will engage different knob modes that are completely user programmable.
The size of this knob makes it perfect for whizzing through tracks when used as a jog wheel as well as tweaking effects and the resolution is also fine enough for basic scratching. Two banks of eight pad style buttons sit either side of the big wheel, these buttons are nicely sized, have a lovely action and as mentioned before are backlit with RGB LEDs that provide vivid colours , a good level of brightness and are just generally all round nice to use. At the top corners of the Orbit are two L/R style buttons that will be instantly familiar to anyone who has used a Playstation or X-Box controller and are used to engage the X and Y accelerometers that enable the Orbit to be tilted forward, backwards, left and right to tweak effects, browse menus or control any other MIDI parameters DJs and musicians are creative enough to dream up.
The wireless capabilities of the Orbit have been well thought out and overall perform impressively. Thankfully the battery inside of the Orbit is rechargeable via USB so there is no need to have an endless supply of AAA batteries on hand. Wireless connectivity is via a USB dongle which is connected to a PC or Mac and the range and latency are perfectly usable but obviously start to degrade once the unit is a considerable distance from the computer. While WI-FI might have been preferable especially as dongles are notoriously easy to lose in dark DJ boxes given the battery hungry nature of WI-FI the dongle is a good trade-off that shouldn’t give too many headaches as long as owners are careful not to misplace them.
One of the more unique features of the Orbit which is brought to the fore is the inclusion of a Velcro strap which attaches to the back of the unit to provide a way to make the Orbit “wearable”. While it is perfectly possible to wear the Orbit like a watch this sort of fashion mistake is more likely to gain looks of sympathy and mirth rather than awe inspired gazes. Of course this Velcro strap is perfectly serviceable for attaching the Orbit to stands or other equipment and is more likely to be found anchoring this controller to a DJ console than a DJs arm but you have to give Numark’s marketing department points for creativity.
The Orbit will connect to any MIDI compatible software and already has MIDI maps for Traktor Pro, Serato and Resolume Video software with more likely to come in the future as well as option of using the included Orbit Editor software to create custom maps quickly and easily thanks to the great design and user interface. Also included is Orbit DJ software which is perfect for newcomers and features effects, cross fader as well as some other neat features to get owners up and mixing in no time.
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