• Price: US$249
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Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX Review

Phil Morse
Last updated 13 May, 2020

5861

The Lowdown

Numark’s Mixtrack Platinum FX is an entry-level four-channel DJ controller for Serato DJ software, and a direct replacement for the Numark Mixtrack Platinum, which came out in 2016. Broadly it improves in all areas on its popular predecessor, and if Serato is your choice of software, it’s a winner.

Video Review

First Impressions / Setting up

While obviously it is entry-level in build quality (made of plastic throughout, quite lightweight, cheap feeling knobs and buttons), it also manages to feel “grown up” and workmanlike. The original Mixtrack Platinum has been a mainstay of our teaching here at Digital DJ Tips for four years, and our model still works fine – so I’d envisage no reliability issues with the new one.

Mixtrack Platinum review
The unit appears similar at first glance to the original, although it has been improved in many areas.

The Mixtrack Platinum FX is slightly deeper than the original Mixtrack Platinum, and while it appears broadly similar in layout, you quickly spot big differences between this and its predecessor: It has much bigger jogwheels that retain the central info displays; the layout is no longer “symmetrical” (so each “deck” is identically laid out, rather than them being the mirror image of the other); there are now pad selector buttons above the pads; and there are conventional loop controls (unlike the Platinum before it, which used pad loop control only).

But any Mixtrack Platinum FX review of course has to concentrate on the most interesting change – the new FX implementation, with an effects section right in the centre of the controller, with paddles to control the chosen effect. I guess they didn’t put “FX” in the model name for nothing! Much more on this later.

The controller has the expected ins and out – mic in, 2 x RCA out, headphones out (1/8″ and 1/4″), and USB for the computer (cable supplied, “old style” USB, so if you have a new laptop with USB-C you’ll need a converter), which also provides power to the unit.

It comes with Serato DJ Lite software compatibility, and upgrading to Serato DJ Pro incurs an extra cost – something users will want to do at some point, although Lite is perfectly capable of allowing you to learn the basics of DJing, using your own music or music from Tidal or SoundCloud (subscriptions necessary).

A much-requested omission in the free software is a record button, although if you have a bit of tech know-how you can always fix this by routing the audio in your computer to a recording app.

Mixtrack Platinum review
Plug in your headphones and speakers, and you’re good to go – set-up is simple with Serato DJ Lite.

To get it up and running, you head over to Serato’s website, register an account if you don’t have one, download and install Serato DJ Lite, and plug the controller in. If you want to use a streaming service you then head to Settings and log in to either Tidal or Soundcloud (there is a three-month Tidal trial provided with the unit).

Learn to DJ on this controller: DJing Made Easy course

If your local music is in iTunes you tick the “Show iTunes” box while you’re there, and if your local music is elsewhere, you navigate to it form the library and can highlight and drag in anything you want to use.

Plug some powered speakers into the back, some headphones into the front, and you’re good to go.

In Use

General DJing

Basic DJing on the Mixtrack Platinum FX is great fun. The jogs are big, and the displays are genuinely useful in the middle of them, giving you BPM readout, time elapsed, +/-% pitch, key settings and deck number. This is the first big difference from the cheaper sister controller, the Mixtrack Pro FX – it doesn’t have these displays.

The pitch sliders are huge, meaning manual beatmixing can be mastered easily on this controller, and the standard layout of the Cue and Play/Pause buttons means any DJ will quickly be up and running, whatever they have DJed on before.

You get gain, three-band EQ, a big fat filter knob, and a basic crossfader (you can adjust the crossfader curve in the software), and browsing and loading tracks is simple with the push-to-switch encoder knob and two load buttons.

headphones
The headphones cue controller are just how you’d expect them to be.

The expected Cue buttons and Cue Gain/Cue Mix knobs are there for headphones monitoring, and there are Mic volume and Master volume outputs (top left and top right of the controller, respectively).

Sync buttons are big and right above the transport controls; you press Shift and Sync to turn Sync off for each deck.

Effects

This is what the controller is sold on, of course (the clue is in the name) and they’re a radical departure from the way controller effects have always been in the past.

Rethinking effects on controllers is a trend started by Pioneer DJ with its DDJ-400, DDJ-800, DDJ-1000 and DDJ-1000SRT controllers, which ditched the until-then standard software effects paradigm and went with something more like the way effects work on Pioneer pro club mixers.

Numark for its turn has decided instead to go with the feel of the effects sections on battle scratch gear, such as the Pioneer DJ DJM-S9 mixer, or the Numark Scratch mixer – namely, by including “paddles”.

Mixtrack Platinum paddles
The paddles give you a new way to operate a single chosen effect, and are certainly a good way of being more expressive.

Paddles are vertically operated switches that are “off” in the middle, and can be either locked on when pushed up, or momentarily triggered when pushed down – in the latter case, they spring back to the central “off” position when released. This give a control method that many DJs prefer, offering very expressive control over effects.

In this instance, while there are paddles for each deck, all you’re actually controlling is a single effect across the whole controller, even though Serato DJ Lite has six effects built in, three per deck. The effects you get are those built in to Serato DJ Lite: High-Pass Filter, Low-Pass Filter, Phaser, Flanger, Echo and Reverb.

Learn to DJ on this controller: DJing Made Easy course

You can control the “cycle length” of the effect (ie how quickly it does its thing and returns to do it all over again), which is called “Beats”, and you can use the Tap button to “tap” in a beat if you want to, should the software not have guessed the BPM of the track correctly, or you want to use it for creative effect. Finally, there’s an overall “dry/wet” knob, to decide how much of the output is the effected sound, and how much the original signal, when you activate your chosen effect.

The general consensus out there is that effects on controllers got too complicated, and as they did, fewer DJs used them – a generalisation, for sure, but clearly Numark agrees, taking a gamble by simplifying what the hardware effects do, making them far more easy to engage and use, at the expensive of flexibility.

And I loved it.

Filters in particular here are cool because you can dial in a filter type and amount and quickly trigger them on and off, something it’s not possible to do with the filter knobs. Echo and Reverb are equally simple to dial in and they’re post-fader too (which means if you echo a sound, for instance, and turn the track off with the fader, the echo will continue to sound until it’s done, regardless of that fact) – this is a good thing, by the way.

Some will hate this “one effect” limitation, but especially for the users this is aimed at (and frankly for me, too) this is enough and I’d be more likely to use this than a more in-depth but complex effects implementation. Of course, the full effects are still available on the software screen so you can always use the mouse to control those if you want to do something more, or if and when you upgrade to Serato DJ Pro, get a second controller just for the effects, such as the Pioneer DJ DDJ-XP2.

Performance pads

The eight single-colour pads under each jog are the performance pads, which on DJ gear are there to give you ways of DJing more expressively. In this case, they’re an improvement on the previous Mixtrack Platinum, but still behind what you’d get on more pro and indeed some other entry-level controllers. The pads are single colour illuminated: Red.

A good thing is that Numark has added a third row of four buttons above the two rows containing the eight main pads, to control what the main pads do – this is standard in pad implementations and was lacking on the original Mixtrack Platinum, leading to some convoluted Shift button-based workarounds.

Mixtrack Platinum Performance Pads
The single-colour performance pads are an improvement over the previous model, but still not “full strength” compared to some other controllers.

The disappointing thing is that the lower four pads of the eight aren’t really performance pads at all in Serato DJ Lite. Instead they’re some pretty redundant controls, giving you the ability to jump back to the start of your track (you can do that by pushing Shift and Cue anyway, so no need for it on a pad), and to move quickly through a track (you can do that with the jogwheels, that’s one of the things they’re for). The fourth control, “Stutter” jumps to the master temporary cue and plays, as opposed to pausing. But all of this means you only have four performance pads left for the other functions, limiting you – for instance – to just four cue points.

This is because Serato DJ Lite only give you four cues, basically, Indeed if you use this controller with Serato DJ Pro, those extra pads revert to being the performance pads everyone would’ve wanted them to be all along. So ultimately in a controller designed for Serato DJ Lite, that’s what you’re going to get, and that’s fair enough – just don’t look at this controller, see eight pads, and think that they’re eight full performance pads, because they’re not, at least not with the supplied software.

Learn to DJ on this controller: DJing Made Easy course

So let’s run through the four functions of the pads. You get four cues that work as all cues do (hit to mark a point in a track, Shift+Cue to delete). You get “auto loop”, which duplicates the function of the new loop controls (loop button and loop 1/2 and x2 buttons), although you can be marginally more expressive with the pads as you can jump instantly between wider values than with the buttons. And you also get rudimentary control over the sampler in Serato DJ Lite – again with more control when you upgrade the software to Pro.

But the most interesting addition here is “Fader Cuts”. On pro DJ gear, there is an effect called “transform” or “gate”, that quickly and rhythmically cuts a track in and out – something that scratch DJs do with the crossfader, too. “Fader Cuts” – hence the name – does this for you, cutting in and out 2, 4, 6 or 8 times each beat depending on the button you press. It’s basically an extra effect, and can sound good when using to chop up vocals, for instance. It’s cool to have it here.

Overall, the pads are limited, especially with Serato DJ Lite, but nonetheless they do give you more creative options than if they weren’t there, and over the previous version of this controller.

Other controls

You can change the pitch range of the pitch faders, to allow you to slow down and speed up your track by greater or lesser amounts; you can choose to lock the musical key when you do so; you can use the new loop controls for manual looping (which is where you set the in and out points manually) and jump back to a previous loop (“Reloop”). All of these functions are accessed by pressing Shift and the relevant button on the unit.

Mixtrack Platinum FX crossfader
The crossfader can have its curve adjusted via a software control.

The big buttons bottom left of the jogs are the aforementioned Shift button, and the buttons bottom right od the jogs switch the jogwheel behaviour from “scratch” or “vinyl” (where the top of the jog “scratches” your music and the edge nudges it, or just the whole jog nudging it). Pressing both of these buttons together changes the deck you’re controlling, which is how a two-channel, two-jogwheel device can control four decks.

It’s important to note though that four decks aren’t available in Serato DJ Lite – you need to upgrade to Pro to get four-deck functionality. It is also our second point of difference over the Mixtrack Pro FX, which doesn’t offer the four-deck button.

Conclusion

There is a huge demand for simple, entry level DJ gear, and the Mixtrack models from Numark have traditionally had a large chunk of that market. This latest incarnation of the Mixtrack Platinum is a worthy successor to the previous model, improving in many areas.

The FX are much more fun than the “standard” Serato FX layout; the jogwheels and pitch faders are excellent (the bigger jogs make a huge difference); the layout has been improved; and pads and looping are also improved over predecessor, with Fader Cuts being particularly fun.

Just bear in mind that it is limited, not least by the software. It is not four channel without Serato DJ Pro, the pads do less than on most controllers, and the intentional “less is more” focus of the effects implementation will grate with some.

Mixtrack Platinum FX review
There is a huge demand for gear like this, and the Mixtrack Platinum FX therefore enters a crowded market.

Among Serato controllers, the closest competitor of the Mixtrack Platinum FX (and indeed the Mixtrack Pro FX) is the two-channel Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3. Smaller, with smaller jogs and shorter pitch faders (and still with the same pad limitations), that controller retains the more traditional effects layout – so if this is important to you, it may be a better choice.

The bigger decision for the beginner would be whether to go for Serato at all. Pioneer DJ’s two-channel DDJ-400 comes with a full version of Pioneer DJ’s own DJ software, Rekordbox, with none of the limitations of Serato DJ Lite – you can use all eight pads, you can record, there is better control over loops, more effects. Software-wise, it wins hands-down.

That software decision, though, is bigger than any individual controller – you probably already know whether you want to go for Serato or not, but if you don’t, check out our Serato vs Rekordbox article and video to help you to make your choice It’s a big one, so choose wisely! Just know that it’ll cost you $99 to buy the full version of Serato, although you’d be wise to wait for them to offer it at 50% off, which they seem to do pretty regularly.

Learn to DJ on this controller: DJing Made Easy course

Finally, which Mixtrack FX should you go for – the Mixtrack Platinum FX or its cheaper stablemate, the Mixtrack Pro FX? They’re very similar, and only $50 apart in price.

If you like the jog displays, and you think one day you may want to upgrade to Pro software and use four decks, then go for the Platinum. If not, the Mixtrack Pro FX does everything else identically (and even has one sole extra function – a “Censor” button for “bleeping” out swear words – which seems to have been sacrificed on the Platinum because of the need for the deck switch that uses the same button).

To sum our our Mixtrack FX Platinum review, this is a great controller for the money, and you’ll have a lot of fun learning to DJ on it. Even if you buy one and then in the future you graduate to more pro gear, I suspect your little Mixtrack FX Platinum will still be working, and you’ll end up hanging on to it as a backup device.

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