Numark Mixtrack Pro
The Numark Mixtrack Pro is an entry-level two-channel MIDI DJ controller that lets you mix, scratch and mash-up tracks with hot-cues and loops. It follows the two-decks-and-mixer paradigm of the traditional club DJ, so you get two separate decks with cueing and transport controls, a comprehensive mixer section with 3-band EQ strips for each channel and pitch sliders to help you match track tempos. It may be cheap, but the Mixtrack Pro provides everything you expect from a modern DJ controller.
It’s very much aimed at the home studio, as can be seen from its I/O connections. You get a single USB port, a 6.3mm headphone jack, a 6.3mm microphone jack and two stereo RCA outputs. A balanced output would be nice, but ultimately unnecessary. If you’re new to DJing or just want an entry-level controller for home use, the Mixtrack Pro’s I/O connections will suffice.
In keeping with the vast majority of MIDI DJ controllers, the Mixtrack Pro connects to your laptop or computer via USB. It's also powered by USB, which means you don't have to hunt for a spare mains socket whenever you want to hit the decks. You can just plug it in to your computer and perform.
Once connected, you must install the Asio 4 All audio driver. The Mixtrack Pro works with standard Windows audio drivers, but the ASIO driver is essential for providing the low latencies needed for effective mixing and scratching. When you're DJing, you want your controller to be as responsive as possible so that when you move the jog wheel to scratch, for example, you hear the scratch sound straight after the movement, not seconds later. The lower the latency, the more immediate the sound.
Once the driver's installed, you can install the bundled DJing software, and the Mixtrack Pro comes with two of the best entry-level DJing applications around: Traktor LE 2 and Serato DJ Intro. It's also compatible with the new Serato DJ software, and should work with any other DJing software that supports MIDI mapping.
Traktor LE 2 looks similar to the full version of Traktor Pro 2 shown here, but doesn't have Traktor Pro 2's advanced features
We're massive fans of both applications, and both have their strengths and weaknesses when combined with the Mixtrack Pro. Serato DJ Intro, for example, is great for scratching and beatjuggling because it responds well to jog wheel movements and displays your tracks’ waveforms and top of each other or side by side. Traktor is brilliant for mixing and creating live edits with hot-cues and loops, and its effects are the finest you’ll find in DJing software.
Serato Intro DJ is a great entry-level DJing application
The Mixtrack Pro's mixer section consists of three upfaders and a crossfader. The left and right upfaders control the volume of the left and right channels respectively, while the middle fader controls the volume of the master output. The upfaders are placed very close together and very close to the jog wheels. We didn't accidentally move the jog wheel or an adjacent fader, but we'd still prefer more room between the faders and jog wheels.
We'd also prefer a little more room around the crossfader. It's possible to hit a channel fader when it's fully closed and you're scratching, and the crossfader area feels a little cramped.
In terms of feel, the upfaders have quite a bit of resistance to them, which is great for smooth mixing, but not so good if you want to snap them back and forth quickly. Sure, the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 has much smoother upfaders with less resistance, but the Mixtrack Pro's faders aren't bad considering the cost of the unit.
As for the crossfader, it's loose enough for scratching but has enough resistance for smooth, confident mixing. It's certainly much better than the crossfaders you used to get on entry-level DJ controllers.