The latest collaboration between industry giants Numark and Serato, the NS6 has landed, and this brand-new shiny controller for Serato’s Itch software is bound to turn more than a few heads.
The NS6, at a glance, looks and feels an awful lot like the NS7, which we reviewed and loved a few years ago, but the NS6 has more features and four-deck control, as well as a fully-functioning four-channel mixer. The DJ controller market has matured and the competition is very fierce indeed, with many high-quality, high performance controllers to choose from, and while Numark’s NS7 was a heavyweight contender when it first appeared on the block, things have changed, and the NS6 has to be something very special indeed to cut it in today’s market.
It’s obvious from the moment it’s lifted out of the box that a lot of the development, technology and lessons learnt from the NS7 have been included in the NS6’s sleek-and-shiny all-metal case and design.
Far from being just a four-channel version of the NS7, the NS6 has a plethora of new features and functions lurking above and below the control panel.
Everything about the NS6 looks and feels like a professional unit; the all-metal construction, balanced outputs, slick layout and even the price tag all pay testament to this; however, for club DJs who are using controllers, it might present a bit of an age-old dilemma, lugging it around to gigs, not to mention finding space in a DJ box to put this monster as well as your laptop. Of course, on the other hand, this could be the perfect tool for mobile DJs, where the aforementioned isn’t a problem at all.
It’s a complete DJing package that becomes more than the sum of its parts because of the slick design, as well as tight integration with Itch. And for DJs who are a little technical, there is nothing stopping them mapping it to other digital DJing software like Native Instruments’ Traktor.
The NS6 boasts two deck sections and a four-channel mixer that can be operated without a laptop or Itch running, as well as a high-quality soundcard. This means that although the NS6 is of a reasonable size, there are an awful lot of functions packed into its case.
The biggest advantages the NS6 has over its older brother the NS7 are the ability to control four decks in Itch, as well as the mixer section having an extra two channels to make a total of four input channels. Numark have been clever in their design of the NS6, and given DJs plenty of options at their fingertips to make full use of these four decks, with features like the Layer buttons on each of the controllers, which switch between decks one and three on the left controller, and two and four on the right hand side’s controller.
Numark’s rather cheekily-named “Strip Search” (which as they point out was designed before Pioneer’s needle search) has had an overhaul and LEDs have been added around the touch control strip to give a visual indication on the hardware of what section of the track is being played.
One of the features we most liked about the NS7 were the motorised platters, which felt exactly like DJing on vinyl turntables, largely due to the ultra-tight response in Numark’s motorised platters. OK, so the NS6 jog wheels are not motorised, but the good news is that touch-sensitive platter technology has made its way to the NS6 and it works so accurately it has to be used to be believed, although anyone who has used an NS7 will tell you that the motorised platters are sexy as hell, so it’s a shame to see them missing from the NS6.
The NS6 follows the trusty two-deck mixer-style design that is now synonymous with most controllers in the marketplace. The layout and placement of controls is very intuitive and everything is nicely spaced, considering there is a lot packed into the top section of the controller.
At the top-end of each controller is the Strip Search function; next to this is a Tap Tempo button to manually set the BPM for that deck. Loop controls are found directly underneath and are among the best features of the NS6, giving plenty of control via large backlit buttons in a completely usable and intuitive way. Each of the controllers has a lovely long pitch fader that gives fantastically accurate control. They also have two triangular LEDs above and below the 0% indicator, which are there to give a visual indication as to which way the fader should be moved to lock that deck’s BPM into time. A mysteriously labelled Skip button is one of the coolest features to be found on the NS6, and uses the new beat grid system in Itch to fast-forward through a track while keeping everything locked in time.
THE GOOD MIXER
When it comes to its mixer, the NS6 doesn’t disappoint; a fully-functional four-channel mixer with some very nice features and quality components sits at the heart of this controller, and as mentioned before, the mixer will run independently of Itch, so even if a laptop dies in the middle of a set, all is not lost. Each channel of the mixer has three EQ knobs, a gain, two buttons to engage either or both of the FX on the channel, as well as a switch to change the source from Itch to a turntable, microphone or line input, such as a CD player. A user replaceable version of Numark’s CP Pro crossfader is found at the bottom of the mixer, but with its ultra-smooth action and virtually indestructible design, it’s probably the cherry on top.
The control section found at the top of the NS6 does a great job of browsing and loading tracks without needing to reach for a mouse, and the master and booth volume knobs are well-placed and feel great. To either side of the Itch control section are controls for the FX sections, with a fader for level, an illuminated button to engage the effect and two knobs that control FX parameters and selection.
Overall the NS6 is an incredibly well-built and well thought out DJ controller. Everything about this unit is functional and professional. The integration into Itch is done so well as to be seamless and the software and hardware work together as a single entity. And for those like us who have been lucky enough to use Serato’s Itch 2 on the NS6, the best is yet to come! The only downside to the NS6 is the fact that whilst it might be a dream come true for mobile DJs, it still represents that controller headache for club DJs wanting to take it to their gigs, due to the size and weight of the unit.
But once plugged into the set-up, even that is forgotten.
|Ease of Use||9.0|
|Value for Money||9.0|
Well-built, well designed and well executed, there is an awful lot to like about this Itch controller, which has everything except a soundsystem and pair of headphones in one complete package. Free upgrade to Itch 2 when it’s finally released.
The motorised platters as seen on the NS7 are gone. No Traktor official version.
|Conclusion||Four-deck control of Itch via this feature-packed controller, a four-channel mixer and high-quality soundcard in one sleek unit. There is a lot to like about the NS6 especially for mobile DJs or four-deck turntable wizards.|