The Numark Party Mix II and Party Mix Live DJ controllers for Serato offer a lot for your money: DJ controls, audio interface, light show, and – in the case of the Numark Party Mix Live – built-in speakers. They work with Mac, Windows, and using other compatible software such as djay Pro AI and DJ Player Pro, with iPad and iPhone, too. At this price there are tons of compromises, but they’re both fun, especially the Live.
First Impressions / Setting up
People think that big, expensive DJ controllers are where it’s at – but if you look by sheer volume of sales, it’s the little, cheap devices that sell the most. Such devices offer easy ways into DJing for the casual DJ.
One of the best value small controllers over recent years has been the Numark Party Mix – a small Serato controller, with a built-in light show, for under $100. But now, five years on, Numark has released the Party Mix II and the Party Mix Live, the latter coming with built-in stereo speakers.
In this joint Party Mix II review and Party Mix Live Review, we’ll look at the two new controllers and help you decide if one of them is for you – and if so, which one!
Obviously the Party Mix Live, with its speakers, is going to get all the attention, but it is important to say at the start that operationally these are exactly the same device in every other way, so we’ll review them together and cover the speakers separately towards the end on the Party Mix Live.
Numark has recently upped its build quality on its controllers, and the Party Mixes are no different: They just feel more sturdy than the original Party Mix did.
They’re small controllers, about the width of a 13″ laptop, with a basic two-channel mixer in-between two identically laid-out (and equally basic) decks. That said, with its speakers, the Live feels a lot bigger (it also has a bit more height).
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The buttons are all hard and “clicky”, and each deck has four “pads” which can be cycled between controlling hot cues, loops, sampler and FX. This is like the original Party Mix. The pitch sliders remain short. However, the “vinyl behaviour” buttons have gone – as the jogwheels are now capacitive touch, you get the usual “nudge at the edge, vinyl mode by touching the top” behaviour.
Meanwhile, the mixer sections gain filter controls per channel, and stick with a two-band EQ, but lose the headphones mix knob, so you won’t be able to DJ only in headphones – for instance when rehearsing or DJing late at night in a quiet house. I wish they’d kept this feature.
The three LED lights on the rear of the units with their semi-circular transparent plastic refracting prisms appear identical to those on the original Party Mix, offering a surprisingly effective “light show” in a small dark room. It’s little on/off switch is on the right-hand side of the unit.
The USB, main output and headphones outputs are now on the left-hand side, and the old RCA outputs have (wisely, I think) been switched for an 1/8″ minijack output for plugging external speakers in. Thankfully, the USB socket is now just that, a socket; in the past, it was a hard-wired lead (a bad thing).
Both units have relatively big, chunky round rubber feet.
The Party Mix Live speakers
Looking specifically at the Party Mix Live, there are a few other features, all designed around the speakers.
There is a speaker on/off switch on the left-hand side (because you can still plug in external speakers if you wish), and now, there’s a power input on the right-hand side. Yes, for the Live unit to work, it needs mains power. That also means there’s an off/on button on the right-hand side by the power input socket.
(The Party Mix II has no such need for external power, as it gets all of its power via the computer USB connection. That said, you can use the Party Mix Live without the speakers in this way, too.)
The speakers themselves are stereo, one mounted roughly above each jogwheel, within a plastic grille that stretches across the top of the entire device, making the Party Mix Live a few inches deeper than the Party Mix II. But because the Party Mix Live is also about an inch deeper, too, overall it feels like a much more substantial device.
As with all Serato devices, setting up is easy. The free software option is to download the Serato DJ Lite software from Serato’s website. The devices are recognised immediately upon plugging them in.
Note that you’re provided with a USB-B to USB-A cable, so if your computer uses USB-C, you’ll need either an adaptor or an alternative cable to plug the device in.
Both units work with Serato DJ Pro, the “full strength” version of Serato’s software, too, but you’ll need to pay an upgrade if you wish to use this. However, for getting started, Serato DJ Lite has most of what you need, including access (with free trials) to four common DJ music streaming services – TIDAL, SoundCloud Go+, Beatport LINK and Beatsource LINK.
Read this next: The Best Music Streaming Services For DJs
Note that the devices also work out-of-the-box with Algoriddim’s djay Pro AI software (including on iOS), Virtual DJ, and the DJ Player Pro iOS app. Note also that Camera Connection Kit is apparently required to use the unit with iOS apps, although we haven’t tested this, and I suspect a USB-B to USB-C cable would work fine with USB-C-enabled iPads.
So first, those speakers. How do they sound? Well… they’re OK. They are more “transistor radio” than “full range audio”, with not much bass or volume. Turning the main volume anywhere past about two-thirds just distorts the sound.
Any half-decent portable Bluetooth speaker would outperform these speakers, which I guess is only to be expected at this price point. So while they’re fine for practising on, don’t expect to play at any kind of party with them. You’ll definitely want an external speaker or speakers for that.
As with the original Numark Party Mix, there are lighting programmes that are baked into these units, selectable using the aforementioned button on the right-hand side. You can have the lights flashing in time to the music, or you can choose to just have them permanently on.
They look pretty lame in daylight, but in a darkened room, they’re surprisingly effective. Again, though, this is really for private use and for a bit of fun – not least because the front of a controller is a strange place to have lights!
The rest of the controls
As to the rest of the controls, the jogwheels feel great – smooth and responsive. The single-colour backlit pads are clunky but also fine, and the faders – while they won’t win any awards – are respectable for the price.
As always with smaller controllers like these there are lots of compromises, and for some, they will be compromises too many. Only four pads and limited additional pad controls mean your control over effects, looping, samples and hot cues is necessarily limited.
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For instance, the loop buttons won’t go below a single beat loop, and the effects buttons simply momentarily trigger pre-selected effects at about 2/3rd “on” (the fourth button cycles the beat length of the effect/s).
There’s no “shift” button to allow an extra layer of controls, but holding the pad mode button works in the same way, to give you the shift function when, for instance, deleting cues.
The supplied two-band EQ is fine at this price, but some will bemoan the lack of a microphone socket of any kind.
More serious for me is the omission of a headphones mix knob, disappointingly left off this time around. People using small controllers I’d presume often have to do so in silence, and not having that knob makes headphones-only mixing hard.
The big library navigation knob is easy to use and works well with the two load buttons, and there’s a neat touch on the headphones cue buttons: Pressing one turns the other one off, unless you hold the first one down as you press the second, in which case they both function – just as well bearing in mind the removal of any kind of headphones mix function.
Remember, this comes with Serato DJ Lite; we tested with Serato DJ Pro, but with the limited amount of functionality available on the units, what I just described will all work the same way in Serato DJ Lite too.
We have to consider the price of these and who they are aimed at. Both the Party Mix II and the Party Mix Live are reasonably competitively priced, and they are squarely for beginners.
With the Party Mix Live, you’re getting a two-channel DJ controller, speakers, lights and built-in audio interface for around $180!
Go for the Party Mix II without the speakers and it’s $130 – and you can plug it into practically any speaker you like with an Aux In, including whatever you likely already own – so at least there’s a choice here.
Read this next: 5 Best DJ Controllers Under $500
Our advice then would be that if you do own a suitable speaker, the Party Mix II is the better buy – just pair it up with the speaker or speakers you have and save $50; you’ll almost certainly get better sound too.
However, you may like the idea of simple, built-in speakers for ease of use and setting up – in which case, the Party Mix Live stands alone. Just remember that unlike the Party Mix II, it doesn’t take its power from the computer, so you’ll always need to plug in the supplied mains cable.
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Both of these units are well built, and have all the basics to start DJing, and they’re undeniably fun. If you want a tiny unit like one of these that is more “pro”, they do exist – but for instance the Reloop Ready (here’s our Reloop Ready review), which does have a lot more features, costs a lot more.
Should you spend a bit more?
Ultimately, if you are serious about getting started in DJing, you should also consider looking a bit further up the food chain. From this brand, get a Numark Pro FX (here’s our Numark Mixtrack Pro FX review) or a Platinum FX (here’s our Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX review) and a decent speaker or two and you’ll have a much more capable system – albeit at a considerably higher price. That would be the kind of level we recommend our students enter the world of DJing at.
But if you’re super-casual, buying for an interested child, or simply want an awful lot of DJ system for relatively little cash, these both improve on the original Party Mix, except for the loss of that headphones mix knob. And of course the Party Mix Live is unique in that there is currently no other mainstream DJ controller with built-in speakers out there.
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