DJ and reader Nick D writes: “I’ve been playing out for a few months now using my friend’s set-up, which is a Hercules RMX mapped to Virtual DJ. While I have no real quarrels with the Virtual DJ software, I really do not plan to purchase a Hercules unit after working with one and seeing how unresponsive it can be.”
“Since I cannot depend on my friend’s set-up forever, I’m looking to buy my own. The two controllers I’ve narrowed it down to are the Numark Mixtrack Pro and the Numark Omni Control. I like the steel casing on the Omni; plus it looks like it has more knobs for controlling effects than the MixTrack Pro does. The addition of more ins/outs is a big plus, so is the fact that it comes with Traktor LE, which I want to start learning. But you seem to love the Mixtrack Pro, so since you’ve reviewed them both I figured I’d ask for your honest opinion on which is truly a better unit for someone who is already playing gigs.”
Digital DJ Tips says:
This touches upon a few issues that arise again and again when people are choosing controllers, like which software to go for and how “professional” a controller has to be for playing in public (ie whether it matters that it’s consumer quality rather than “pro” quality). But the issue I’d like to focus on here is “old” vs “new” controllers. Early DJ controllers paved the way for today’s models, but in a straight comparison, they can’t win against them now. The main area that they lack in is jogwheel quality. Today’s high quality, touch-sensitive jogwheels are immeasurably better than the jogwheels on older models. Scratching sounds more convincing on them, cueing is easier and faster, nudging more precise.
Further than that, there were basic design and firmware issues in some older controllers that got ironed out as manufacturers rolled out their second (and sometimes third) wave of products.
Modern controllers nearly always win
All of this means that we nearly always recommend you to go for a modern controller over an older model. While there are countless DJs still happily using older models, it makes little sense to choose one over a newer unit if you’re buying new nowadays. All but the very cheapest DJ controllers nowadays outperform even expensive models from the last generation of controllers.
Hence controllers like the Hercules RMX and Steel (replaced by the [4-mx]), the Numark Omni and Stealth (superseded by the lower-spec’ed [mixtrackpro] and higher spec’ed [ns6]) and the Behringer BCD controllers (never replaced but now hopelessly outdated) are not, in our opinion, a good buy nowadays. The only controller that’s been superseded that you could still make a case for buying is the original Vestax VCI-100 over the [vci100mkii], as the former product was and still is a great controller.
Pro quality means pro prices
In your case, though, the Mixtrack Pro is undeniably a consumer-focused product, even though its runaway success indicates that it has done an awful lot right. If you want a more “pro” controller with extra inputs and outputs, you’ll have to look elsewhere – but the older Omni is not the right way to go.
If you’re trying to stay within a budget, look at controllers like the good value [digitaljockeyii-ie] and the aforementioned Hercules 4-Mx – if not, the [s4] and the [jockeyiii] are excellent, and both use Traktor to boot. You’ll see that you have to pay considerably more than you would for the Mixtrack Pro, though, which is why we recommend it so often – it’s a great value unit and lots of semi-pro DJs are happily using it.
Finally, check that the Mixtrack Pro dues come with Traktor LE in your territory – it’s often supplied with Virtual DJ LE.
Have you bought an older-style controller and regretted it? Are you still using one of the older models happily? What would you recommend to Nick? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.