Using With Serato DJ Intro
Serato DJ Intro is a relatively new product that competes squarely with Virtual DJ LE and Traktor LE, as supplied with many a controller. It has its own pluses and minuses: the main minus is that it’s only two-deck, which means you have two spare channels to play with. Of course, you can still use these with external inputs, and as many a DJ doesn’t even DJ past two decks anyway it’s not always going to be an issue, but it’s a shame nonetheless.
Serato DJ Intro’s strengths, however, are many: It’s elegant, easy to use, based on Serato’s respected ITCH (and to an extent Scratch Live) products, and if nothing else it offers you a genuine choice. Kudos to Numark for including it.
The supplied template
To use Intro, you put the supplied overlay across the controls at the top of the N4. It’s a high quality metallic template, and is immediately intriguing because it says “Serato” not “Serato DJ Intro” on it, and has four decks marked. Mmmmm, something in the pipeline maybe?
It’s a high quality metallic template, and is immediately intriguing…
Anyway, this template has the various controls of Serato DJ Intro printed on it. It fits well, and looks like it’ll stay good for many years – there’s nothing that suggests it’ll easily crease or get tatty. Also, the back of it is blank, so if you were using the Numark N4 with say Traktor Pro 2, or remapping it with any other software, you could grab a washable marker pen and write your own functions onto it.
So back to Intro. The software looks less cluttered onscreen than Virtual DJ LE, and the waveforms are massively superior. You can have them vertical (as with Serato Scratch Live), or horizontal (like Serato ITCH), and they’re colour-coded to show you more about your track than the single-colour waveforms of Virtual DJ LE.
The software is reasonably well-featured: the effects on offer are more standard than the slightly wacky effects on Virtual DJ, with echo, flanger, and crucially hardware-mapped filters among your options. While they’re by and large all hardware controllable, you do have to make your selections using the keyboard. There’s a beats function knob, that lets you adjust how the effects map to the beats.
Sample-wise, you can control the supplied four sample slots in in the software, but again you do have to use the keyboard for this, and it’s the same for the hot cues – no hardware mapping of hot cues at all. Looping on the other hand, behaves and is controlled similarly to how it is in Virtual DJ.
The manual pitch control fares no better than with Virtual DJ, suggesting it’s a hardware resolution limitation, but the scratch control I’m pleased to report is again very good – typical of Serato software, I must say.
Serato DJ Intro works a little differently to most other DJ software in that there’s minimal duplication of controls on the screen and the hardware. For instance, there are no crossfader or mixer controls onscreen. The idea is that this isn’t necessary, but what that means is that you need a hardware control surface to use it properly. Indeed, if you unplug the N4, you switch into “offline” mode, where you can prep your tracks.
You can use Serato ITCH to prep your music including rules-based playlists, and when you load up Intro and plug the N4 in, there is everything waiting for you.
It’s worth reporting here that Serato DJ Intro’s offline mode is limited. So here’s a little trick. If you download Serato ITCH (it’s free fro the Serato website, the catch being it won’t work without an ITCH-enabled controller, which the N4 isn’t) you can nonetheless use that software in its respective “offline” mode.
Now, ITCH’s offline mode is much better than Intro’s – you can add smart playlists, for instance, which are well worth playing with. The killer feature is that Intro and ITCH (and Scratch Live) all share the same music library and metadata – so you can use Serato ITCH to prep your music including rules-based playlists, and when you load up Intro and plug the N4 in, there is everything waiting for you.
Standalone mixer functionality and external sources
So you get two extra slots to plug in your record decks, CD players or just an iPod (or two) for backup. These are separate entirely from the software: thus they work even when you don’t have the unit plugged in to a laptop. Effectively, the N4 becomes a simple two-channel mixer in this instance, complete with two microphones.
To select the decks, you just hit the toggles on the front from “PC” to “INPUT 3/4″. As the signal is not routed through the software, you can’t use your software effects and the like, but you can use gain, volume and EQ – and of course, headphone monitoring and master / booth controls etc all work as you’d expect.
To use with Virtual DJ timecode, you switch a little toggle by the USB on the rear to “timecode”, and play away. We don’t have any Virtual DJ timecode here to check this, but I’ve no reason to believe it wouldn’t work exactly as advertised. (You can’t use it with Traktor or Serato timecode without additional hardware.)
There is an awful lot to like about the Numark N4. The sheer amount of stuff packed in for the price is a real indication of how far digital DJ gear has come in a really short space of time.
This is what I would call “semi-pro” gear – you can get a level of performance out of it that is going to be pretty much indistinguishable from the pro stuff, but without the true pro build quality and specs (and so without the price).
Sure, the sound is only 44.1KHz /16-bit, but only real perfectionists will notice any difference between this and the best audio interfaces.
Sure, the sound is only 44.1KHz /16-bit with a s/n of 89dB, but only perfectionists will notice any difference between this and the best audio interfaces – trust me, your audiences won’t.
Control isn’t as fine as the best pro units, and cue juggling, effects manipulation and manual pitch are all areas where performance is less than the best that’s out there – but the overall mix of features remains strong.
Build-wise, my instinct is that the Numark N4 will be reliable as the Mixtrack and Mixtrack Pro have proved to be. Built to a budget doesn’t have to mean unreliable, as Numark has already proved.
As far as how much fun using the thing is, Numark truly has it nailed: It’s an absolute blast, pregnant with possibilities for the ambitious up and coming DJ.
It’s great to have multiple microphone inputs, which with EQ are genuinely useful. Want to mess with DVS and timecode? Virtual DJ timecode is a value way of doing just that. Got existing gear? It’ll incorporate fine. Want to bypass an external mixer and plug straight into a PA system? The XLRs have you covered. Want to try Serato, Virtual DJ (and Traktor if you’ve got it – the unit has ben mapped to TP2)? Again, Numark is ahead of you.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.