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Review: Numark NS7 II Serato DJ All-In-One Controller

The near-larger than life Serato DJ controller, the Numark NS7 II, reaches for the sky by combining the best of both the turntablist and controllerist worlds. Touch-sensitive controls, MPC pads, a mack-daddy audio interface, and full-service vinyl platters are just part of the menu. Check it out to see if this all-you-can-eat approach is right for you.

Manufacturer: Numark
Price: $1599 (MSRP) $1499 (on Amazon)
Communication: MIDI over USB (high-resolution MIDI for the platters)
Ships with: Serato DJ (download), power + USB cables, 2 platter assemblies with tools, paper user guides
Weight: 35.8 pounds (16.24 kg)
Dimensions: 30 x 17.5 x 5.3 inches (76.2 x 44.5 x 13.5 cm)

The Good: 8 velocity-sensitive, multi-mode pads per deck. Cool Filter macro modes. Excellent vinyl turntable feel. Pro-grade audio interface and mixer. 5 dedicated hot cue buttons per deck. Booth outputs with dedicated volume control. Much improved visual feedback.

The Bad: Monstrous to transport. No Serato DJ support for Windows 8 yet.

The Bottom Line: This Serato DJ controller means to mark off all the check boxes: turntablist control and mixing abilities, controllerist performance touches, full-blown audio features, touch sensitivity, visual feedback, and hardware options for nearly every task. If you showed up to a gig and this was in the booth, could you complain? Even the price, while high numerically for a controller, is still reasonable considering what you get. Impressive. 

numark-ns7-ii-overview-

LET’S GET THIS OUT OF THE WAY

The NS7 II is a controller made to satisfy turntablists using Serato DJ. The 4-channel controller and mixer with professional-grade audio interface is quite heavy, as well as relatively large and expensive. It uses powered turntable-style platters with real vinyl discs so that DJs used to spinning with records and/or control vinyl won’t miss anything except perhaps the size of the turntable. If any of the above has you concerned, the NS7 II probably isn’t for you.

Numark is striving to make this piece of gear the best at what it does, which means it just won’t appeal to everyone. If you thought the original NS7 was too big and heavy and don’t have much use for jog wheels, let alone motorized vinyl platters, save your complaints for someone who cares, not Numark.

"It weighs more than most dogs!"  - Roy, DJTT intern
“It weighs more than most dogs!” – Roy, DJTT intern

Like it or not, the NS7 II beats the pants off of the NS7 in just about every conceivable way. First off, it obviously includes better software: Serato DJ, rather than Serato Itch. You get touch-sensitive knobs that access some innovative new features in Serato DJ. The NS7 II also maximizes the available surface area far better than its predecessor, adding 8 multi-mode and multi-colored MPC pads, a full effects section, and new dedicated Hot Cue buttons on each deck, as well as dedicated Filter knobs in the mixer, and much better visual feedback overall.

BUILD QUALITY AND DESIGN

build-quality-ns7

Numark was not budging on build quality for the NS7 II. The mechanics of the motorized platters would already make it heavier than most all-in-one controllers, so why not go all out? Just like the NS7, the NS7 II employs an-all metal chassis, making it one of the most robustly-built controllers you’ll find. At 33 pounds, the NS7 II is relegated to transporting in a flight case with rollers -unless you’re one of those fist/iron-pumping heavyweight DJs from Jersey, you’re not hauling this thing from studio to gig by hand.

The heavy metal components of the NS7 II aren’t the only signatures of a professional build. Its velocity-sensitive MPC pads come straight from Akai (like Numark, also owned by inMusic Brands). And the NS7 II’s mixer section is a full-fledged, 4-channel DJ mixer that can mix 4 phono/line input sources—as well as 2 mic inputs—with pro-grade components and turntablist features.

CONTROLLER PERFORMANCE

ns7-ii-filters-and-faders
Filters + Faders on the NS7 II

The NS7 II’s controls are class all the way. The channel and crossfaders have that loose, slick feel of a dedicated scratch mixer, while the pitch faders are stiffer and ideal for minute adjustments.

Likewise for the knobs and rubberized buttons: Their construction and feel leave little to be desired. While the controls utilize every inch of the available space, nothing feels too cramped, and the logical layout puts nothing you’re using in the way of something else. In particular, the Filter knobs’ larger, grippable size and smooth, creamy action single them out for frequent use.

ns7-ii-platter

If you prefer to mix on powerful, direct-drive turntables, the NS7 II’s platters will give you the feel and response you desire—all except for the actual size of a pro DJ turntable. Out of the box, they require some quick and easy assembly, and you can use the included vinyl pieces or your own 45 records to customize the look. A motor torque switch on the back adjusts from a heavier torque of modern turntables to the lighter feel of vintage turntables, and Start and Stop Time knobs give you generous leeway between near-instant starts and stops to slow, grinding wind ups/downs.

There is also a Bleep/Reverse switch. Flipping it to Reverse actually reverse the platter rotation as well as the playback, so it’s not instant. Bleep provides a momentary reversing of the audio in Slip mode that doesn’t reverse the platter. It’s good for censoring words or just doing a reverse effect that won’t interrupt the linear flow of the music.

Beatgrid adjustment buttons (use in combination with platters)
Beatgrid adjustment buttons (use in combination with platters)

With the Slip/Clear and Adjust/Set buttons, it’s an easy and fast process to use the platters to move the Beat Grid left or right, or to set to Beat Grid markers for those times when the original analysis misreads a track.

Simply put, the NS7 II’s platters provide a virtually identical experience to using control vinyl or even using pressed records on turntables. Be assured that this is akin to having two mini-turntables built into your controller – the torque strength and vinyl control feel like a pro deck. And with 3600 ticks of response resolution per rotation, the high-resolution MIDI that connects the platters to the software lets you scratch, nudge, and otherwise control the Audio Pointer in Serato DJ with precision.

The
The Touch activation button (bottom right) and the effects knobs that benefit above

As a kind of “yeah, why not?” innovation, the NS7 II includes some touch-sensitive knobs to add some additional flare and performance options to your mixing. Press the Touch Mode button on the left deck once to activate touch sensitivity for the three FX knobs. Touching any part of the knob will activate the effect or the parameter for that knob until you take your finger off. With Shift-Touch Mode, you’ll add touch sensitivity to the EQ knobs on all 4 channels. Touching the EQ knobs then kills that frequency band. You could for example place your hand over all the EQs for a track and kill the entire track momentarily until you lift your hand.

strip-search
The Strip Search strip

You’ll notice a lot of improved visual feedback on the NS7 II. The Strip Search touch ribbon that helps you access any point in a track works well for that purpose, but it also adds a helpful LED progress bar that shows you where the track is in its playback, which is great whether you use the touch strip or not.

Another LED bar, the BPM Meter, sits above the mixer channel strips and shows when the tempos of the two active decks are matched. A white LED in the center glows when the tempos are matched, and the Meter’s red LEDs bend to the faster deck when the tempos aren’t matched.

The Akai-style pad backlighting.
The Akai-style pad backlighting.

At first, I thought perhaps the light rings around the outside of the MPC pads would be deficient compared to fully backlit pads you see on controllers such as the Pioneer DDJ-SX. It turns out they’re not deficient, just different. They light up in different colors for each of the 9 Pad Modes and they’re easily visible in both well-lit and night conditions.

SOFTWARE INTEGRATION: SERATO DJ UNLEASHED

The pad + mode selectors on NS7 II
The pad + mode selectors on NS7 II

The NS7 II gives you hardware options for just about anything you want to do in Serato DJ, including browsing, dropping tracks in Crates or the Prepare panel, toggling through panel views and screen layouts, adjusting the Beat Grid, etc. But in some key areas the NS7 II goes far and beyond what’s normal for most controllers.

The MPC pads and accompanying Pad Mode buttons provide the most comprehensive performance toolbox that I’ve seen on a Serato DJ controller. Most Pad Mode buttons select two separate modes, and the two Parameter arrow keys further modify the pads’ actions.

  • Cue: Press Cue once to enter Hot Cue Mode, where you can set, trigger and delete cue points with the 8 pads. Press Cue again for Hot Cue Auto Loop Mode, where new or existing cue points are triggered with an auto loop assigned to it. Use the Parameters to increase or decrease loop length. Personally, I love this mode; it’s great for setting up your next mix while working with another track.
  • Auto/Roll: Press this once for Auto Loop mode, where each pad triggers an auto loop of different lengths. You can use the arrow keys to make the loop length longer or shorter, or use Shift-arrow keys to move the loop position forward or backward. Press Auto/Roll again to enter Loop Roll mode, where pressing a pad triggers a momentary Loop Roll. While a pad is pressed, you can use the arrow keys to lengthen or shorten the Loop Roll.
  • Loop: This button enters Manual Loop roll. Pressing it once accesses the first back of 4 loops in pads 1-4, and pressing it again assigns the next 4 loops to pads 1-4. Pads 5-8 are used to set loop in and out points, activate/deactivate the loop, and to reloop. The arrows keys halve or double the loop length, and Shift-arrow keys move the loop back or forward.
  • Sampler: Press this to enter Sample Player mode, where the first 6 pads trigger the software’s SP-6 samples. Pressing the mode button again enters Sample Velocity Trigger, which is the same thing except that velocity sensitivity is activated for the samples.
  • Slicer: In Slicer mode, Serato chops up the playing track into 8 segments according to the Beat Grid, which you can then retrigger from the 8 pads, or hold down a pad to loop it. Pressing Slicer a second time enters Slicer Loop mode, where instead of playing a track continuously, the 8-Slice phrase loops while you perform. In both modes, the arrow keys change the length of the slice quantization, and Shift-arrow keys increases or decreases the Slice Domain size.
filter-roll-ns7-ii
The NS7 II’s filters fave fun-to-use FX/Roll modes

The NS7 II has one last trick up its sleeve: the Filter Mode button on the right-hand deck. Pressing it enters the Filter Roll mode, and in addition to the normal filtering, the Filter knobs now apply a Loop Roll to the track, and the Loop Roll decreases in length as you twist the Filter further to the right or left.

Pressing Shift-Filter Mode turns on the Filter FX mode. This, in addition to normal filtering, also turns up Parameter 1 of either FX deck that’s applied to the track as you turn the Filter right or left. So you can have any one or two of Serato DJ’s effects applied to the filtered track simultaneously from the Filter knob.

Filter FX mode gives you more creative freedom than Filter Loop mode, but let’s face it, both are a pretty fun and easy way to make you sound cooler. That being said, don’t just dive in haphazardly—at least not in front of an audience. Since these effects happen in Slip mode, you’ll want to have your timing down just right and the Beat Grids prepped accurately.

AUDIO QUALITY

The NS7's IO
The NS7’s IO

Numark lists the NS7 II’s soundcard as 24-bit, and Serato DJ doesn’t provide any customization options for it. Before comparing it to anything else, it was clear that the NS7 II punched out plenty of audio levels from all of its master, booth and headphone outputs. There was headroom to spare, and when both headphone outputs are used, the levels remained the same.

After comparing the NS7 II to several other soundcards, including the NI Traktor Kontrol S4 and M-Audio Conectiv, the impression was that the Numark delivered a very classically transparent sound. Where others emphasized the bass a bit—too the point of slight distortion in very bass-heavy music—the Numark kept it even. The same could be said of mid-highs like lead synth lines. The Numark sound kept such frequencies even in the mix.

Whereas there was definitely a difference in the NS7 II’s sound compared to other currently used DJ soundcards, the difference was subtle, and not easily characterized as “better” or “worse.” Suffice it to say that the sound was clean, powerful and a transparent mix; I wouldn’t hesitate to use it in a public setting.

MORE IS MORE

ns7-2-measuring-tape

Using the NS7 II after a pretty long period of not using jog wheels or turntables made me remember just how fun and satisfying it can be to mix without using the Sync button. At DJ Tech Tools, we pretty much don’t have biases for or against any type or method of controlling music; whatever sounds best coming out of the speakers is the point. But still, the NS7 II plus Serato DJ makes for a great combination of old school-meets-new school organic music mixing. You have the full ability to combine your turntablist and controllerist techniques at will.

Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing, but the NS7 II is not such a case. Besides the practical issues of size and weight that are inevitable, if you have room in your life to add the NS7 II, I doubt you’ll regret doing it. Transporting it can be rough, especially if you don’t have the NS7 II case, but if you can set it and forget it somewhere in a DJ booth or studio, it could be the perfect controller for getting lost in Serato DJ and your music collection for hours and even days on end.

Markkus Rovito is DJTT’s Tech Editor. Want something reviewed? Let him know in the comments. 

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  • Simone Phoenix

    DON’T care about the weight. I actually put my hands on one of these babies the other day. GOTTA HAVE IT! *grinning*

    • Brian GA

      Me too man… been messing with these bad bois for about a year saving the bread up… cant wait the count down continues….

  • Philosofox the DJ

    Why is this so much cheaper than the Pioneer DJM-900SRT or the Rane 64 if it also works as a standalone mixer?

  • baye

    Does anyone know if you can use the phono inputs to add two turntables doing DVS to have 4 controllers for the 4 virtual decks?

  • djtorchMusic

    It’s really simple. If you are transitioning away from turntables, this is your best choice. If you’re already a “controllerist” or a CDJ user, then there are other options that may suit your needs. I spin on CDJ 2Ks now, but I really miss the feel of Vinyl and am a big fan of the SC3900s. I prefer Traktor over Serato, but there are no Traktor controllers near the quality of this controller

  • Carmelo

    I love numark (I still have my tt200’s) but come on, this is going a bit far, and for the price? Are you really getting what you need?

  • Michael J

    I used the NS7 for years so this was an easy decision to make to upgrade – I understand the haters (weight, size, expensive), but as a mobile DJ I’ve never had a problem. The performance and versatility makes up for the weight and size. I’ve had the NS7ii for only about a month, and it is a bit of a learning curve from the NS7 with Serato Itch, but so far it’s been great. The touch-activated controls are unnecessary, but absolutely brilliant and really adds another dynamic I never would have thought of.
    This does fit in the Odyssey Flight Case I had for my NS7, but whereas I left my NS7 in the case during gigs, I can’t do that with the NS7ii since it blocks the front microphone input – that’s really been my only complaint – that Numark said it’s compatible with NS7 cases, but it’s just a little off :/

    • bcdjrise

      Awesome quality in any aspect indeed Michael. May I ask what specs you have on your laptop and what OS? I’m having some issues with my setup in the trial period with my NS7II but I’m suspecting my old 17″ MBPro being unable to handle the last version of Serato DJ 1.7. Maybe you can suggest a more stable combination of operating system and Serato version which works fine for you. Thank you!

      • Michael J

        I have two MacBook Pros – a late-2008 model and a 2011 model, both 15″. The newer one is my primary and the older my backup computer in case something should happen. I’m running OSX Mavericks but I’m starting to see a couple cases of hiccups, even on the newer machine. I believe I have 4GB RAM and it’s working fine, but I think an upgrade is in the near(ish) future. Both of my laptops do run Serato DJ 1.7 sufficiently however – I might get a hiccup or freeze after 2 hours of playtime, but I haven’t had any massive crashes or glitches.

  • Dancenoise

    Serato DJ works on my Windows 8.1

  • Dat1weddingDJ

    I love NI but as an old school DJ having moved to an S4 if I could afford it I would pick an NS7II up. All you babies out there complaining that you can’t haul it around DJ please! I really appreciate the informative read from a team that reps Traktor hard.

  • DJ Arley

    I had one. Loved it, then started experiencing glitches. Followed all the troubleshooting tips but one of the platters refused to send any data to the software. I returned it for a new one. Experienced a whole new set of issues with the new one. It would be an amazing piece of equipment if it was reliable. Buyer beware.

  • Jazzy G

    It’s heavy and bulky, but that’s where the minus ends. Everything else about this bad boy shines! I have the original NS7 and though it is magnificent, I can’t wait for the NS7II to arrive (in Canada). Pioneer has a great kit as well, but for those who want to try out new and creative mixes with the touch capacitive knobs, this is your chance! As for Traktor, the biggest advantage Traktor had was the effects. Now with Izotope built in, every month they release a dozen new effects! Simply put, it brings Serato DJ right back into the heat of the battle! Izotope + SP6 and you have every creative venue open to you!

  • inturn

    For someone who carries around 2 numark TTX’s in super heavy flights cases and a rane 57 to every gig, THIS is a dream come true! Honestly, you get the whole professional package for 1500. MY MIXER WAS 1500 WHEN I BOUGHT IT LOL. And because I don’t want to shell out $2000 or whatever for the new serato mixers, this seems like a steal. Definitely picking this up!

  • Aken

    So beautifull piece of kit. Too bad that you can’t use it as a versatile controllerist.

  • djblackjack

    its very nice but i think the price is by far too much…… i mean its very similar to the ddj sx (the motorized platters are the main difference) and i can get the ddj sx for £500 when this is £1000. unless you REALLY want the platters, i don’t see a reason to pay £500 extra, plus the size and weight of it is a lot, and it must be very uncomfortable to bring to a gig.

    • jkuss

      If you like to scratch or beat juggle there is no substitute. If you don’t need those things, yes you could make your life way easier and cheaper with a Pioneer.

  • tr4gik

    1500 freaking dollars for a controller, damn. Thanks but no thanks.

  • Naived

    Will there be a traktor version? or maybe a mapping that works with traktor?

    • jkuss

      There never was for the original. I don’t see why there would be with this one. Anyway you wouldn’t want it because every button is almost exactly tied to a specific sera to function.

      • Naived

        I used to use serato in the days of itch but i never liked it very much…traktor is just much more intuitive so it would be great if this worked with it 🙂

      • SLFC

        There was in fact support being worked on for the original NS7 as easly as 2009, but N.I. totally backed out of it. –

        http://www.skratchlounge.com/index.php?/topic/11554-ns7-ns7-ii-traktor/

        Pay attention to those screencaps of the announcement that N.I. was “very excited to be working on support for the NS7” – also DJ Quartz’ videos… it very clearly could work with the device, but I guess N.I. had a “Nintendo Snes-CD” moment and figured out that if they helped Numark’s controller work with their (N.I.’s) software, they wouldn’t be buying their (N.I.’s) hardware.

      • SLFC

        Midi Controllers should be open to use on *any* acceptable platform, especially when that controller is $1499. I don’t buy the excuse that “Numark and Serato deliberately made the spinning platter data hard to interpret for software” – seeing as how N.I. did in fact have a beta in which the platters were being read properly.

        https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=500292700064&set=o.446440350014&type=3&theater

        https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=497752865064&set=o.446440350014&type=3&theater

  • Ezmyrelda

    Was there any particular reason beyond convenience that an m-audio conectiv was used for comparison audiowise or was it because that was a pretty obvious choice to compare that company against a NI card and a Numark card? Not knocking the decision, just curious.. The conectiv was my first audio card and despite having a Z2 now I can’t get myself to donate or sell my old conectiv..

  • KIO

    If you would have to spend your own hard earned cash on a (Serato) controller, which would you buy, Markkus? Pioneer DDJ-SX or Numark NS7 II?

    • KIO

      Actually, I want to ask that differently, because you might argue that you’d prefer the SX for the argument of weight or the NS7 for some other rational argument. What I really want to know is which of the two mentioned controllers put the biggest smile on your face while using them? Which one was the most fun?

      • djfusion

        I would say go in a dj shop, try a CDJ and a turntable. If you prefer the CDJ go for the SX, if you prefer the turntable go for the NS7 II

        • KIO

          Haha, well I started out on turntables a few centuries ago. Then I never liked the CDJ thing, so skipped that. Then got myself a controller (NS6 when it just came out). Based on your advice, I guess I’d enjoy the NS7 more.

    • j cozart

      numark ns72

  • Chris Cobb

    Back in the day I had to take three trips to the car to get all my record crates in the club. ANY midi controller is portable compared to that!

  • killmedj

    I used to have the NS7, and I loved it to bits. but the logistics of transporting it just became too much. Full credit to anyone who hauls this beast from gig to gig on a Saturday night!
    Still the best controller I’ve used though…by far!!

    • jkuss

      I do it every Friday! And the flight case makes it too big and too heavy so it’s all by hand!

      • killmedj

        I take my hat off to you. I remember buying mine in LA, humping it into a cab with it’s flight case, heading to the airport to fly back to Sydney with the intention to use it no matter what!
        But after a year of 4 gigs a week in 3 different venues carrying it up and down stairs, bumping people trying to get to the booth and then trying to cram it in next to another DJ and set up without ruining his or her life =)
        Just got too much and I had to admit defeat.
        I sure do miss it though, The S4 aint quite the same =(

  • JonnoI

    I’m curious to see how Numark try to market it to professional DJ’s, or how they are going to try muscle in on NI’s market.