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Four to the floor

Can Numark’s N4 controller deliver a welcome surprise and bring pro control to the entry level market?

Numark’s N4 controller is a slightly strange bit of kit as it brings four-deck control, as well as a host of high-end features, to a controller that some would say is aimed firmly at the entry level end of the market. Not a bad thing if you’re an up and coming DJ who wants all the tools that the big boys play with. However, what is the trade off — if there is any?

First impressions of the N4 are quite deceptive with regards to the build. It's obvious that to keep the price down, Numark have jettisoned the metal construction of the NS6 — or even their new offering, the 4Trak — for an all-plastic coating, but on closer inspection the build quality is actually very good. In use, going down the plastic route isn’t a big deal at all. The N4 is also far more compact in size to Numark’s premium offerings and is more in keeping with the Mixtrack and Mixtrack Pro controllers. This is where the comparison ends with these two though, as the N4 is brimmed full to the rafters with features and functions that are more in keeping with its elder brothers.

On a cosmetic front the N4 fares well, and is not bulky in the weight department either. It feels firm, and is just about the right side of heavy to make it seem well put-together, and not cheap and flimsy. The black and metallic blue colour on the overlay card give it an air of professionalism that belies its rather low price-point, and puts it more in keeping with a product twice as expensive. Built into each side of the controller are two handy carrying handles that make moving this little number around a breeze.

TAKE CONTROL

The N4 is a four-channel virtual controller and a two-channel conventional mixer, allowing the DJ to connect any external audio sources like CDJs or turntables into it. To add to this, it also comes with two additional mic inputs — pretty impressive connection options for something so inexpensive.

The N4 is definitely pretty well specced out and not really lacking anything at all. This is also reflected in the software packages that come as standard. DJs have the option to use either Virtual DJ LE or Serato’s new Intro software straight out of the box, and the handy and well-styled overlay card is a welcome addition to the party which allows jocks to have all the specific mappings for whichever DJing software that they opt for close at hand. And let’s not forget, as this is a MIDI controller it can easily be used with Native Instrument’s Traktor or any other digital DJing software.

The top panel layout of the N4 is pretty much the standard layout of most controllers these days. The mid-section dedicated to the mixer controllers comprises of four up-fader channels, a crossfader, knobs for the EQ and FX sections. Adjourning this on both sides are the jog-wheel deck sections. The jogs on the N4 are very similar to what they use on the more expensive models, albeit plastic, and have a good feel to them: in fact, they are pretty firm and responsive in use. This can also be said for the buttons, faders and rubberised knobs. The buttons are a decent quality, and are backlit in four colours, which is handy as they match the deck colours shown on screen in the Virtual DJ LE software. Little touches like this just go to show how well thought-out the N4 is and how much the DJ is getting for so little money.

One area that seems to have come in for a recession session is the crossfader, which can’t be replaced by the DJ. Saying that, though, it should last the test of time — it feels good and has a nice action, as do the channel faders. Whilst the N4 is a compact controller, the faders and controls are all spaced out rather well and it doesn’t feel cramped at all. The pitch faders towards the top edges of the front panel are long, which means it should be pretty easy to dial in fine-tuned pitch adjustments when in the mix. Some entry level controllers have smaller pitch controls which make it difficult to get that certain level of accuracy essential for tight mixing. The other two sections above each of the jog-wheels contain the buttons and knobs for controlling looping, samples and effects, whilst tune selection is taken care of by the library selection knob which can be found centred next to the trim volume controls for each channel.

Underneath the jog-wheels towards the bottom of the top panel are the usual play/pause, cue transport controls as well as the DJ's saviour, sync buttons. For jocks using virtual DJ, there are also extra buttons to control the video files that can be run using the software.

BRING IT BACK

Check out the back of the N4 and you find the output and input connections. There’s the usual power on/off button and 12V power socket — whilst it is a compact controller, the N4 can’t be run off USB power alone. It also has a USB connector for hooking it up to your computer, which also has a little switch so that the DJ can switch between the two performance modes that can be employed with the N4: one of these is for standard controller use and the other for timecode, as the N4 can also be used to control DVS software. What can’t this thing do?!

As mentioned earlier, there are two inputs for external devices which can be switched between phono (record decks) and line (for CDs, iPods, etc), and another two outputs for master and booth. The N4 is really set up to be a pro bit of kit with all these options, and to add the icing to the cake there are also balanced XLR outputs for plugging straight into a club's PA system.

IT’S ALL UPFRONT

At the front of the N4 are the curve control and adjuster switch for adjusting the crossfader, handy for scratch DJs who want to alter the way the crossfader works in keeping with their particular style of DJing. There are also the two microphone inputs which have separate gain controls and a two-band EQ, as well as the input selection switches for toggling between the externally connected sound sources or what’s coming through off the computer. To add to the rich compliment of features are two headphone sockets.

The N4 is really a pro bit of kit hiding under the guise of a entry level controller. This is a real piece of DJing joy. If I was starting out and my parents bought me this, I would be a very happy and proud DJ, for sure. I'd show it off to my friends, and make sure that it was all back to mine, as it looks the part as well as delivers the goods. Mobile DJs or jobbing club DJs can still benefit from this controller as it has all the features that would be found on a high end piece of kit without breaking the bank.

Price £349.00
Contact Numark.com
Build Quality
 8.0
Ease of Use 8.0
Features 9.0
Value for Money 8.0
Sound Quality 8.0
Hype 

An amazing bit of kit for the money, it even gives more expensive controllers a good run for their money.

Gripe 

Rather a lot of plastic, but at the price can we really complain?

Conclusion 

A feature-packed controller that works well as an entry level starter but can even tackle the demands of a pro DJ.

Overall Score 8.2/10