Numark have released their latest contribution to the entry level DJ controller market; the Mixtrack Pro 3. Once a new product like this is released, we start thinking of the systems that are already on the market. The product most of our customers have been considering for comparison is Pioneers DDJ-SB, an established entry level DJ Controller with a huge following.
The Pioneer DDJ -SB has never been a particularly feature-centric design unlike some of the other Pioneer DDJ controllers the DDJ-SB sticks mostly to the essentials.
The DDJ-SB is Pioneers' budget offering. The DDJ-SB always seemed to be designed for DJs that just wanted to GetInTheMix!
The controller is handy for use on the most popular Digital DJ software and can accommodate most of the essential effects and features available; the keyword here being 'essential'!
Digital DJ software moves at quite a pace and even the high end controllers have a hard time future proofing, providing all the physical controls needed for newer features added; see Serato Flip or Beat jump.
The new contender in the budget controller market, released this Spring, is the Numark Mixtrack Pro 3.
This controller is a redesign of its predecessor the Mixtrack Pro (2). The unit is modern, it still follows the same formula as most of the entry level controllers on the market but has been refreshed.
At this level a product refresh usually means little more than a new case color or texture. Features added are often superficial or seen as gimmicks. However in this case not only was the refresh necessary, due to advancements in the supported Serato Software, but it's been done with restraint.
The new Mixtrack Pro 3 actually looks a little bit more professional than its forbearer, the extensive use of plastic has been limited and has been removed from the platter surface completely, I know it sounds like we're drifting back into aesthetics' again, but in this case it actually matters. The platters are the most important point of interaction on these machines, in terms of the actual music manipulation and it's important to get it right.
So let's take the two machines side by side;
The Numark is a bit wider than the Pioneer at 550.9mm, whilst the DDJ SB is 487mm.
The Mixtrack Pro 3 is a bit thinner and less chunky. The depth of the DDJ-SB is 271.2mm compared to the Mixtrack Pro 3 with its 233mm depth.
At first glance the Pioneer seems more purposeful, with the platter / jog wheel taking quite a prominent centre stage, with a basic mixer setup to compliment it.
The Numark has a more streamlined modern look. the top panel actually looks quite sparse considering that there are 21 buttons on it, the jog wheels on the unit seem smaller than those on the DDJ-SB though the official dimensions put the MTP3 platters at a 5” diameter and the Pioneer-SBs’ at 4.409”
The Mixtrack pro 3 is the same width as the Numark NV the space is used efficiently and doesn’t look too cluttered. Unlike the DJ-SSB, the transport controls are markedly different from the music manipulation controls.
On the SSB three of the pads are relegated to transport duties (play, sync and shift) this is not the case with the MixTrackPro3 where the transport buttons are truly separate and, on Pro Versions, highlighted in silver. This leaves plenty of scope for customised mapping in Serato including, possibly using all 8 pads for cue points or to trigger samples.
Neither of these units have gain controls, something users have been demanding for a while now. One would feel that Numark would have included the feature in its latest iteration of such a popular unit, but alas this hasn’t been done and this oversight may well prove to be a missed opportunity on Numark's’ part; especially if Pioneer go on to release a similar class of unit with the gain feature.
The mix track pro 3 unit is also first in its class to have VU meters! The DDJ-SB doesn’t have these and it’s a welcome addition to the entry level DJ controller market, the lights are bright, responsive and accurate, it’s a shame that they are to monitor main output only, but it's a definite step in the right direction. If you wanted to use the Mixtrack pro 3 at a small gig, small studio or radio station those meters may prove invaluable.
The Numark shows its flexibility with a 100mm pitch control fader this allows for very accurate beat matching (for those who still indulge) the fader itself actually feels a little better than the one on its big brother the Numark NV.
Designing the Mix Track Pro 3 with a pitch fader this long actually makes it a viable back up controller or a practice unit for professionals, your physical pitch control range now falls in line with the industry standard.
The pioneer DJ-SSB, in this regard, cannot really compete; the pitch fader is half the size and feels far less accurate.
As mentioned earlier, the software that accompanies these controllers’ changes all the time. So the fact that the Pioneer has assigned pads for shift & play functions feels especially limited.
Both units feel sturdy enough though the Pioneer unit does seem to have the edge when it comes to build quality. The DJ-SSB weighs 2.10Kg to the Mixtrack Pros' 1.90Kg
Both units have the solid feet won’t move around in use, both are powered by USB bus yet deliver good output volume through both the Headphones and the RCA outputs.
The lights on both units are clear and bright.
The pads on the Pioneer are bigger than those on the Numark and feel better in quality.
The Numark buttons are fine however they are more ‘buttons’ than pads in that they have a bit of travel and there is often an audible click when they are depressed.
The output of both units are the same, with single RCA output with a USB socket at the back, however a big improvement has been made on the new Mixtrack pro over the DDJ-SB
and that is the placement of the Headphone and microphone ports on the Mixtrack Pro 3.
These have been moved to the front of the unit, again edging ever closer to the industry standards, the perfect move would have been to put the mic input on the control panel, or on the back of the unit; but maybe next time eh?
The fact is that, with the headphone ports at the front, the unit is more like some of the more professional units; new flight case designs for this unit will able to allow the unit to be used in situ’ so one should be able to use the Mixtrack Pro 3 whilst it's still in its flightcase.
The effects controls are well arranged on both units, but alas the Numark once again has a trick up its sleeve, in the guise of the new touch strip. This allows you to apply the intensity of the effects using your finger on the touch strip, the good thing about this is that you don’t need to remember to re-centre any knobs or dials, a cool touch if not a little gimmicky.
It doesn’t stop there though, the touch strip has another function (Strip-search!) this allows you to, whilst pressing the shit key, search through the tracks (waveform) using your finger.
The DDJ-SB does not have this feature.
After some time spent with both units, I would say that the Pioneer seems to be a no nonsense 2 deck digital DJ mixer kit, which despite its superior build quality over the Numark seems to be more portable.
The DDJ SB seems to me more of a workhorse of a unit. The unit you wouldn’t mind taking on the road or letting someone else use whist on a gig. However because of the advancements in Digital DJ software and some of the more creative aspects that have now been made available in DJ software, Pioneers utilitarian and systematic approach may seem a little frugal to some in regards to extra features and may leave users wanting.
The new Mixtrack Pro (3) adds a wealth of extras that may not be 100% necessary, but are very useful especially as they are provided not as extras but as standard.
Speaking of extras... the Mixtrack Pro 3 comes with full versions of Prime-loops Remix tool Kit.
These software additions are a great addition to what's shaping up to be quite a tool for creativity; also if one was to take the plunge and upgrade the Serato intro software that comes with the item to the full fat product, Serato DJ,
you have a good and cutting edge instrument at a good price with some of the latest features! Even if you were not to upgrade the software, Numark seems to have this model primed for a very creative set, with Effects options and the full length fader.
So if you are looking for a pragmatic design with a very direct workflow and very good build quality for road use and lugging around town, then you're looking for the Pioneer DDJ-SB.
If however you are looking for a bit of luxury and want what seems to me to be more of a 'designer' product, that is current and has a lot of extras, then you are looking at the new Mixtrack Pro 3.
Check out GetInTheMix.com for details & deals;
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