The Numark NS4FX is a four-channel Serato DJ controller that fits a definite gap in the market for a mid-price, mid-range controller. While it doesn’t have “pro” features like standalone mixer capability, comprehensive FX and RGB performance pads, it does have two microphone inputs, an aux input, balanced booth outs, plus a neat trick for livestreamers to make using a microphone easier when streaming sets. It makes the right compromises by and large, and we think it will do well – although you need to factor in the not-insubstantial price of Serato DJ Pro, if you don’t already own it.
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First Impressions / Setting up
This is a four-channel Serato DJ controller, which comes with Serato DJ Lite software, and is essentially a bigger take on the popular Mixtrack Platinum FX. It’s deeper, wider and longer than the Mixtrack Platinum FX, but as well as that, it has some features that move it up a rung from its stablemates lower down the range, namely better inputs and outputs.
You get a mic/aux input with tone control, a second mic input (again, with volume and tone), and balanced XLR outputs alongside the more usual unbalanced RCAs. Coupled with its 24-bit audio, these features mean this unit could easily be used in bars, lounges and public events.
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The build quality and components (faders, jogwheels, knobs, buttons, paddles) are all the same as the Mixtrack FX units, but that’s no bad thing, as these days all Numark controllers are very well built for the price.
The aesthetic is slightly different to the Mixtracks (the NS4FX is lighter grey, and the pads glow white, not red), but it retains all that marks the Mixtrack Pro FX and Mixtrack Platinum FX out from lesser budget controllers, such as the long-throw pitch controls, weighted jogs, and separate looping controls.
There’s a useful clamp to hold the power socket in place, a choice of 1/4″ and 1/8″ headphones sockets, and physical crossfader assign switches, all of which add up to a pretty decent unit for the money.
The unit has to be powered, ie it doesn’t run from USB from the computer, but this is a good thing because it means nice, bright LEDs and in-jog displays, plus loud, punchy 24-bit audio. Once you’re up and running, there’s lots to love here.
Overall, it’s a solid controller to DJ on. Most of the controls feel good notwithstanding the slightly cheap feeling crossfader, and the in-jog displays are great for basic info like BPM, key lock indicator, time elapsed/remaining and other useful such items, including a nice motion ring. Serato is a great software platform of course, but the NS4FX also works with VirtualDJ and Algoriddim’s djay Pro AI.
The pads have the expected functions, eg hotcues, auto loop and sampler, and there’s also a “fader cuts” option which is basically a transform effect (like cutting the crossfader in and out rhythmically, at your choice of eight speeds). If you upgrade to Serato DJ Pro (and you should – it’ll cost you $249 extra though, so look out for their offers like Black Friday sale etc) you also get “Pitch Play”, slip roll, slicer and “Scratch Bank”.
There is a key lock, although if you want to shift key, apart from using Pitch Play you’d be doing so with the mouse on the software screen, and also while we’re talking about “missing” hardware controls, there’s no sampler volume on the unit or slip button – again, you can trigger these on the screen with the mouse though.
Mixing on the third and fourth decks is achieved as it is with all such controllers by the use of a “layer” button to switch between decks – it’s a bit fiddly but it gets the job done.
We particularly liked the separate hardware looping controls, and also enjoyed the immediacy of the paddle FX, which apart from the odd choice of duplicating the filter effects on the buttons as well as the per-channel knobs, offer a good blend of immediacy (paddles are fun!) and control (you get a wet/dry and a beats control for them, plus there’s a tap button for those tricky BPMs). That said, there is only one effect to be selected at any one time.
Hidden feature for livestreamers
One cool “hidden” feature is that both the mic/aux and the mic inputs, while not strictly routed through the software, are “sent” down the USB cable, which means whatever you’re using on those two inputs gets blended with the output signal.
Read this next: Ultimate Guide to DJ Livestreaming
In practical terms, that means that you can livestream by “hijacking” the audio via the USB cable and the NS4FX’s built-in audio interface, and it’ll contain your mic/aux sources as well as the Serato music, negating the need for a serarate USB mic or audio interface when livestreaming via your DJ laptop.
The Numark NS4FX fits a definite gap in the market for a mid-price, mid-range Serato controller. Honestly, we’ve not really known what to recommend to people when they ask about this recently, because the best current recommendation would be the Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000SRT – but that’s more than twice the price of this!
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While the Numark NS4FX doesn’t have “pro” features, like standalone mixer capability, comprehensive FX and RGB performance pads, and full Serato hardware controls, it does have two microphone inputs, an aux input, balanced booth outs, plus that neat trick for livestreamers to make using a microphone easier when streaming sets.
We’d like to have seen LFO high pass / low pass filters implemented on the fixed six effects, as the ones they’ve chosen don’t make much sense when you already have “manual” filter controls on every channel. Plus, the metering is poor (no per-channel metering, or way of switching the master meters to per-channel). But these are relatively small things when seen alongside what you get for your money.
You could also consider the Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX6 (the only real competitor for this, which once you’ve factored in buying the full version of Serato, is about the same price). It’s bigger with better jogwheels, but with a weaker feature-set overall and a more compromised Serato mapping than this one, making this our favourite out of the two.
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The NS4FX makes the right compromises by and large for the money, and we think it will do well for home DJs and beginners, but also party/bar/lounge DJs, even semi-pro mobile DJs, if only mainly as a competent back-up device. Even though it’s the best mid-range Serato controller out there right now, do bear in mind that Serato software is pretty pricey to upgrade to – so join their mailing list and look out for offers before doing so! (Black Friday, hint hint…)