More and more DJs are trading in their turntables for laptops, lured by the advantages of digital audio (hard-drive music libraries, searchable music catalogs) and the appeal of carrying less equipment around. The digital transition can be bittersweet, though, as DJs come to miss the feeling of scratching, cueing, and matching tempos with tried-and-true analog turntables and mixers.
Manufacturers have struggled to bridge this gap between analog and digital DJing with a number of solutions, ranging from awkwardly retrofitted turntables, to flimsy . After reviewing our fair share of digital DJ tools over the past few years, we're happy to say that nothing approaches the sophisticated features and rock-solid design of the Numark NS7.
The Numark NS7 package also includes professional DJ software (Serato Itch), which offers seamless integration with the NS7 hardware, and a USB-connected mixing console that doubles as a four-channel computer audio card. It's also in a price class of its own, retailing for a whopping $1,600 ($1,300 street).
For DJs who are accustomed to managing a tabletop-size flotilla of analog DJ gear, the idea of stripping it all down to a laptop and a small DJ controller like the , might seem a little too drastic. The NS7 meets you halfway between the extremes, measuring 29.88 inches wide by 14.88 inches deep by 3.75 inches high and weighing around 35 pounds. You're definitely not going to fit the NS7 into a laptop bag (unlike the VCI-300). In fact, given its weight and awkward size, it takes about two people to carry it comfortably.
The upshot of the NS7's size and weight is a spacious design that begs for abuse. Typically, these USB DJ controllers feel a bit fragile and are constructed from lightweight plastic. The NS7, by comparison, is wrapped in metal from head to toe. The oversize, rubber buttons used for the main playback controls are similar to the ones we loved on the, and respond well to aggressive use.
Another design feature that makes the NS7 stand out from the herd is a steel laptop stand connected to the back of the system. The stand can be quickly disconnected for easier transportation, or for peace of mind if you're uncomfortable suspending your laptop over the floor. The NS7's weight and stability was enough for us to trust that our laptop wouldn't tumble off during an enthusiastic DJ set.
The Numark NS7 offers all the standard features we like to see on a DJ controller, including high-grade audio outputs (gold-plated RCA or balanced XLR), line/mic input, serviceable faders, club-friendly illuminated controls, and full-size knobs that feel just like their analog counterparts. Some unique features, such as touch strips that control playhead position, and oversize reverse switches for each deck, came as pleasant surprises.
Without question, though, the coolest features on the Numark NS7 are the two motorized, 7-inch turntables. They do an outstanding job of emulating the control and feel of working with vinyl, except you don't need to worry about worn needles or skipping tone arms. Compared to systems like the, Vestax VCI-300, or , which use weighted-plastic jog wheels to approximate turntablelike control, the all-metal, direct-drive decks on the on NS7 leaves the competition in the dust (check out our First Look video for a tear-down).
You can't underestimate a product's look and feel when it comes to the fickle DJ market, but the crucial test of a USB DJ controller is responsiveness. Unlike analog gear, where buttons and faders are intrinsically linked to their function, the features of a USB DJ controller rely on ones and zeros being sent back and forth from your laptop.