So you’re considering buying a DJ mixer for scratching in the $500 to $1000 price range. You want a Serato mixer, and you quickly realise there are two main competitors: the Pioneer DJ DJM-S5 and the Numark Scratch. In this article, I’ll run over the key differences between the two to help you to choose.
Watch the video
Prefer me to talk you through these differences? Watch this video where I have both mixers side by side on my workbench.
Firstly, the similarities. They’re both two-channel. They both have the classic scratch layout. They’re both designed to work with Serato, and so give you control over aspects of that software. And they both have a row of four performance pads, making them appear instantly similar (for the record, more expensive scratch mixers have eight).
So on the face of it, either would do the job, right? Well, yes – but there is enough that separates these mixers to mean it is worth figuring out which one may be right for you. So let’s look more closely at some of those differences.
DJM-S5 vs Numark Scratch – 9 Key Differences
1. The Numark Scratch is $500, the DJM-S5 is $800
Everything else in this comparison has to be seen through that lense – you’re paying more than half as much again for the DJM-S5 over the Numark Scratch.
2. The DJM-S5 has better Serato performance pad control
The Numark Scratch has three pad modes, for controlling cues, samples and loop roll. Furthermore, the buttons themselves are quite small, and are not RGB.
But the DJM-S5 has full control over Serato’s pad functions including Gate Cue and Scratch Bank. Add in the fact that its buttons are RGB for better feedback from the software, and the DJM-S5 is much superior in this area.
Yes, both are compromised (no parameter buttons, for instance) – but the Numark Scratch much more so.
3. The DJM-S5 is better laid out
There’s not much in it, and both are compact mixers, but the DJM-S5 is a little more spacious, which affords room for everything to be a bit more spaced out.
If you’re a little clumsy and/or have bigger hands, you may prefer the DJM-S5, especially its full-sized FX paddles (the Scratch has much smaller paddles).
4. The Numark Scratch has better looping, but the DJM-S5 has better library browsing
Auto Loop is pretty useless on the DJM-S5 (a modifier keypress with no hardware-adjustable parameters), whereas the Numark Scratch has loop encoders letting you half, double and activate instant loops easily. Yes, the DJM-S5 has better looping on the pads, but many people prefer dedicated loop controls.
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Those same loop encoders double up as the library browse knobs on the Numark Scratch, when holding Shift. This is not as good as the dedicated library knob and buttons on the DJM-S5, which give you easy access to more library functions.
5. There are differences in crossfader controls
Only the Numark Scratch has physical crossfader curve and reverse buttons. While this is a function that’s available on the DJM-S5, it is via the Shift key and the Serato FX select buttons. It’s not a big deal, but it does feel a little strange not having real buttons where you can see the settings.
That said, while both have high quality crossfaders, the DJM-S5 wins in that it has a mechanical crossfader feeling adjust knob, something the Numark Scratch does not have.
6. The Numark Scratch is all metal, the DJM-S5 is plastic with a metal top plate
Neither is “better” than the other (all of Pioneer DJ’s scratch mixers are constructed this way), but if you like all-metal gear, worth knowing. Overall, both are constructed very well.
7. The Serato FX implementation is better on the DJM-S5
While neither mixer has any onboard FX except filter (just about understandable at $500, but at $800…?), the control over Serato’s FX is better on the DJM-S5, mainly because you get the Beat Adjust buttons, which are completely absent on the Numark Scratch.
Also, it has two new features of its own, namely “Crossfader hot cue” and the Scratch Cutter scratch training mode, which may or may not appeal to you, but there’s none of that on the Numark Scratch.
8. There are differences in the inputs and outputs
With the DJM-S5, you can plug in a third (Aux) input over and above your two decks. It only has a simple volume control on the front of the unit, but it’s there – useful for backup music, for instance.
However, the Numark Scratch has balanced and unbalanced Master Outs, whereas the DJM-S5 only has balanced (both have unbalanced booth). Also note that while both have a mic input, the Numark Scratch is slightly ahead, because it has a tone control as well as a volume control for the mic.
9. They are powered differently
The DJM-S5 is at the time of writing unique in that it is USB-C powered. On the plus side, it can take power from your laptop (there are two sockets, so you can also plug in external power if you like), on the minus side, you need to provide the power adaptor. It opens up the possibility of powering it from an external phone-style battery, too.
Meanwhile, the Numark Scratch has a standard, professional IEC socket and an on-board transformer as found on pro mixers, which some may prefer, but which is less versatile if you want to use the mixer away from a power source.
I hope this DJM-S5 vs Numark Scratch piece has helped you to understand the differences between these two mixers.
To conclude, the Pioneer DJ DJM-S5 is clearly the more capable mixer, teasing many features found on more expensive mixers, and offering a few uniques of its own. It is still limited though (the four pads per side being the biggest limitation), and feels like it has had some deliberate compromises built-in in order to correctly occupy the place in the Pioneer DJ line-up where it sits.
The Numark Scratch is different, in that it wears its limitations on its sleeve. The point about the Scratch is that it is simple to operate, and cheap – with all the main features most scratch DJs will use most of the time. It’s a fun and easy way into the scratch world, without pretending to be “pro”.
Ultimately when it comes to comparing the DJM-S5 and the Numark Scratch, which you choose will depend on your level in DJing, your seriousness, and your budget – and what you intend to buy next. If you’re happy to stick with what the DJM-S5 offers (which is a lot), maybe worth going for that one. If you think one day you’ll want to upgrade (say, to a Pioneer DJ DJM-S11), maybe not as much sense buying the S5, as it’s half-way there and you’ll just miss the features that attracted you to the bigger mixer you’ve got your eye on in the first place!
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Whatever, we do recommend you go and read our full written reviews and watch our video reviews of the units to help you get to know them better before buying:
And when you’re ready do check out our Scratching For Controller DJs course – it’s the world’s best-selling course for digital DJs who want to learn to scratch, from beginner to expert.