Based on the best-selling Mixtrack 3, the Platinum is a four-channel Mixtrack controller with 24-bit audio output, filter and gain controllers for each channel. Where it differs from the 3 is the innovative (and unique) built-in custom LED display screens within each jog wheel. Offers complete Serato control. An impressive budget controller, doing all the basics right, and of course having an ace up its sleeve in those in-jog displays. No other controller at any price has this offering, so it occupies a niche of its own.
First Impressions / Setting up
First impression is that it’s a Mixtrack Pro 3, with displays in the jogwheels. You need to look closely to see any other differences. That’s not a bad thing at all; the Mixtrack Pro 3 is a good controller, nicely sized with most of the features needed for most DJs, and at a good price, although somewhat eclipsed this last year by the even better value Pioneer DDJ-SB2.
So like the Mixtrack Pro 3, we get touchstrips for quick track searching, the ability to work with four decks (although that requires you to upgrade the supplied Serato DJ Intro software to the full Serato DJ software, at a cost of slightly more or less than US$100, depending on currently available offers from Serato), and really nice, long pitch controls, accurate to +/- 1/100th of a BPM. There are basic pad controls for manual and auto looping plus cues and sampler, and standard controls for Serato’s effects and library.
Numark is a strong brand among mobile DJs, which is probably why the company also included pitch bend buttons on the Mixtrack Pro 3 (similar to those that have always been on DJ CD players), and they carry across to the Mixtrack Platinum too. Throw in 1/4″ and 1/8″ headphone sockets, basic RCA out and a USB socket for your computer, and – apart from the displays – that’s the feature set pretty much covered.
There is one small but welcome improvement over the Mixtrack Pro 3 that we’ve yet to cover, though, namely the moving of the filter knobs from under the EQs to top left/right of the mixer, which frees up the space for a gain knob per channel, something missing from the Mixtrack Pro 3.
In the box as well as the unit itself are a USB cable, user guide and a software download card, and getting going is as simple as downloading, installing and opening the software, plugging your powered speakers, headphones and computer into the unit, and… that’s it. Serato at its best – simple. It’s all USB powered, so no mains cables, either.
Frankly I’m always astonished at how good budget DJ controllers are nowadays. Really, this is all you need and it all works fine. The VU meters switch to “cue” when you press the cue button so you can set the gain properly per channel, the pitch faders are super accurate, and the mixer section – while of course lacking the feel of pro gear – works perfectly well. Effects sound great, the software is mature, stable and intuitive, and really it all “just works”.
The in-jog displays
Of course, the big draw here are the displays built in to the jogwheels, so we’ll look closely at those. First impressions of them are excellent. They’re two-colour, high res, and clear, and nicely thought out.
There are two “rings” of lights: The first rotates to show you that te deck is playing, the second fills up bar by bar from 1 o’clock to 12 o’clock to show you how much of the track has played. Number-wise, you’re shown the amount of time left on the track, although this can be toggled to show you the time lapsed if you wish, and you’re also shown the BPM.
With two-deck, four-channel controllers, it’s sometimes confusing to know which deck you’re controlling, but in the jog displays here it clearly tells you the deck you’re using, along with other useful info like whether or not the keylock and slip mode are engaged, and – usefully for those learning to beatmix manually – little arrows to show you which way you should move the pitch control to get each deck to the same speed as the other.
One result of having displays built into the jogs is that it makes them heavier, and they therefore feel much more solid and “professional” that lightweight plastic jogwheels such as those fitted to all other controllers in this price range. That said, the weight also makes them harder to manipulate, or at least, they take a bit of getting used to. Overall, though, they feel pleasingly solid, a bit like when a pricey car door clunks closed with a reassuring “thud”.
The sound quality is great, as is the case with most modern controllers nowadays at all price points, and the overall experience of DJing on this is a positive one; it’s certainly good enough to learn on, use at home, and at occasional gigs.
It’s an impressive controller. While “full” displays on DJ controllers certainly look cool, with their library displays and waveforms, many DJs feel that if they’ve taken their computer along anyway, such displays are overkill; they make those controllers bigger and more expensive, and the computer screens display that info far more clearly anyway.
With this type of display, though, the controller is no bigger, and the info displayed is the kind of at-a-glance stuff that complements the computer’s display. Particularly for mobile DJs and DJs who don’t really beatmix, having your computer software set to library display and using the displays inside the jogs to monitor track position and so on offers a practical new way of setting up a computer and controller.
Usually feature such as this trickle down from further up the product range, but I can see this “trickling up”, indeed I’d like to see something like the Denon DJ MC4000 or MC7000 issued with just this type of display in the jogwheels.
Whether it’s the controller for you depends really on the value you put on those displays, and the price you can get it for. The Mixtracks have always succeeded through keen pricing, but they’ve been matched or undercut in recent times by Pioneer with its DDJ-SB2 and DDJ-RB controllers, and if the displays don’t matter to you, the DDJ-SB2 should also be on your list, although it lacks four-deck capability and touchstrips. (If you are happy to skip Serato and use Pioneer’s own, less polished, Rekordbox DJ software, you can get the otherwise almost identical DDJ-RB for even less, full software package included.)
But if you like the idea of the displays – and I feel many DJs will, especially occasional mobile DJs looking to “ditch the CDs”, or for a second/backup controller – this is unique right now, and keenly priced for what it is too.