Numark Party Mix DJ Controller Review

DJ Equipment Review
August 2, 2017

First Impression of the Numark Party Mix Starter DJ Controller

I was surprised by how small the Party Mix is in person when I first saw it. Obviously, I knew it was going to be compact, but I was initially worried it might impact performance. However, I’m happy to report my worry was for nothing. If anything, the smaller chassis allows me to take it more places, and my kids can easily tote it from room to room while they play with it as well.
The plug n’ play aspect is appreciated. Nothing’s worse than installing a bunch of extra drivers or having to buy extra gear to setup something like a beginner’s DJ controller. I like that it comes with its on software. As I later mention in this review, it’s optimized to work with the software it comes with. Luckily, you actually get the software for free—for keeps. This would have been a downside if it was merely a free trial, but thankfully you can continue to use it, which makes it worth it, in my opinion.

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The Party Mix easily connected with both headphones and speakers we already had at our house. The connection was pretty standard, so for those who already have their own, you likely won’t have to buy any, which is another very likable aspect.

Most important is functionality. The Party Mix offers a lot of capabilities for a DJ controller that is targeted at beginners. You can actually make some quality mixes and it’s easily to tinker with them to get the sound that you want—the scratch pads are especially fun to play with, which I suppose is what most of us adults who have always imagined ourselves DJing have been dying to do since we were kids, since, you know, there were actually records back then.

As I mentioned before, I have kids, and they love the Party Mix as much as I do, so, in my opinion, it’s great for all ages, which makes me love it more.

 

The Pros

  • Class-compliant, plug n’ play
  • Free Virtual DJ LE software included
  • Built-in soundcard—no extra sound software required, simply plug in speakers or headphones
  • Compact chassis are space-saving
  • Dual scratch pads
  • Dual slider controls
  • 8 total multifunctional trigger buttons for cues and samples
  • Equalization controls for customizing master gain, bass and more
  • Built-in lightshow feature; RGB LED backlighting
  • User manual included
  • Warranty included
  • Lightweight at 1.8lbs—easy to travel with 

The Cons

  • To fully access the included free software, Virtual DJ LE, you have to go to the website and enter the registration code. This is a bit annoying, but at the same time, it is your free pass for the software, and the good news is once you enter it, it’s yours for life.
  • Since it’s intended for beginners, it’s really only designed to be used with the included software, but this isn’t really an issue for the DJing novice, and if you end up becoming serious about DJing, you’ll likely upgrade to a different controller anyway.

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Warranty

Numark’s Party Mix is covered under a warranty, so if any issues arise during the warranty period, you’re good.

Final verdict

The Numark Party Mix is an ideal DJ controller for beginner DJs by providing all the basics you need to get a handle on basic DJing skills and concepts—and then take them to the next level.

How To DJ a Wedding – Tips and Tricks

Guides
February 23, 2017

Make Any Special Day a Success Through Music

DJing a wedding can be a lot of fun and also a lot of hard work so it is important that things are done right. Being that weddings are a pivotal part of people’s lives making sure everything runs smoothly is of utmost importance. A good DJ can make or break any wedding, so come prepared with plenty of music. It’s important to treat the client as a customer and to craft your show so it fits with their desired experience. Be sure to find out all the information before hand. What genres to play, how old the guests are, special songs for certain dances, and logistical information such as stage size and set times. You’ll also want a suitably sized library of tracks for any situation. If you’re doing some heavy technical mixing and you’re on for 2 hours you’ll want 6 hours of music available. If you’re just playing track after track with no mixing you can shorten your library length. Here are some additional tricks and tips to make sure your wedding service runs smoothly every time. 



Setting up Equipment For the Function

The setup is the first step in Djing a wedding. Make sure to leave plenty of time before guests arrive to setup the equipment. Often times this will take up to an hour depending on how much equipment is being used. You’ll want to get the acoustics set up while you have access to the room before the guests arrive. Be aware that often times there will be a long period to wait before a DJ’s duties come into play. Try to act professional while you wait as you’re on the job.

It’s extremely important to gauge the acoustics of the room to give a great performance. Make sure to set the speakers up according to the shape of the room to get the best sound. It is very important to do a test run of the sound system before the wedding gets under way. Play a song and walk the room, notice any spots where sound misbehaves and see if adjusting it helps. One of the biggest issues is corners trap bass so heavy base tracks may disrupts tables in these areas. 

When It’s Time For Action

When guests start to arrive it is a common custom to have light music playing, this music will likely continue throughout dinner. After dinner it is time to play the bride and grooms special song, this is the most important part of your night. Some weddings have many special songs which include the first dance, a dance with the parents and a dance with the bridal party. Getting these songs right in these moments is crucial so make sure to be well prepared for these times. A good rule of thumb is to keep the music fast and lively while mixing in a slow song for people to have a rest in between. Most weddings will start with older songs giving the older generation a chance to dance and throughout the night the music can become more modern to please the younger crowd.

How to Dj: Reading the Crowd

Reading a crowd for what songs to play is an art form that can sometimes take many years to grasp. Often times a Dj will receive requests for songs to be played and if appropriate make sure that they get played. Nothing makes people more upset then not playing a certain song that was requested. Be prepared to have a late night of partying, drinking and good times.



Mastering DJ Build Ups

Guides
February 16, 2017

Building Potential Energy

Before the drop comes the build up. If you want to make your drop hit hard you gotta raise the stakes before. It’s just like gravity. This article is all about making compelling build ups that engage and emotionally charge your performance and make it memorable. What goes up must come down, and if you want to do the best build ups you have to learn the balance of tension and release. As a DJ you have a bunch of software and hardware tools and effects available at your disposal.



Beat Rolls

Beat rolls are one of the simplest ways to create an easy tension in a live performance. These effects are called Beat Masher in Traktor and a Loop Rolling in Serato. This is about as easy as it gets but it’s foundational and done right still sounds amazing. You need to practice and build an intuitive feel to properly manage when to build the tension with the beat roll in a song.

Beat roll allows you to create tension immediately with the push of a button just before a major point in a song. Doing so will stop the song from progressing while a beat loops until release. At which point the song will play like nothing happened. Drop, drop, drop, the beat. This tension is created from stopping the track to focus on a specific beat rhythm.

One trick with the beat roll is to transition through the values through larger to incrementally smaller loops. That means start with a big beat value on the down beat, then engage the next smallest value on a down beat in the created loop, then smaller until a hyper fast beat is looped. For example you start beat rolling an 8 count, then on beat you beat roll it to 4 beats, 2, then one. The tension builds as the song hits a fever pitch. The release jumping back to the song will drive your audience crazy with such an amazing build up.

Sweeps and builds

These guys are a little different from beat rolls in they don’t pause the track to focus on a segment. Instead they work to create a new sound by making the existing track fuller and more hectic. Again this adds to the whole charging the audience before the release but it’s done in a different way. Practice will once again rain king as you learn when this works and when it sounds terrible.
So for this one you’re going to need a controller or mixer with a delay function. All you need to do is add in a small delay at around 1 beat, then over the course of a few beats (8 to 16) ramp it up to it’s max value to spike the energy of the song. Then quickly drop the delay and release the tension.

If you really want to get balls to the wall crazy and your gear allows you to set the delay to post fader or master. What you do is set your delay to your channel post fader. Then bounce this channel in and out using your cross fader. Basically you send parts of the song into the delayed channel through the cross fader by flicking it in and out making a ridiculously cool effect that builds some massive tension.

This works really well with the echo effects, but reverb and a few others also work real well. Experiment and definitely try new things to see how you can craft some amazing build ups through manipulating the energy of a song. Don’t just stick to the higher energy side of the spectrum, if you figure out ways to drop the energy you can make even deeper drops after the cliff as well. Also as with anything don’t overdo it. Sometimes subtlety is king. Practice will raise your intuition on what the perfect amount is and smooth out your show.



Why You Should Use In Ear Monitors

Guides
February 16, 2017

Artists often times get disoriented when monitoring their stage performance in live shows through the speaker systems. Even the most seasoned live gig veterans can get confused by a venue with weird stage acoustics. IEMs or In-ear monitors are a great way to cut through this confusion with consistency across the performance area. With the drop in cost and raise in features any serious artist should take a serious look at making the switch.



Crystal Clear

One of the major issues with over ear headphones is that the headphones frequently have to compete with the acoustics of the room. This room noise getting in the way of clearly hearing your sound is something you never have to deal with with in-ear headphones as they naturally noise cancel and do so without needing expensive feedback circuitry.

Intimacy

With in-ears you intimately get a crystal clear rendition of your performance’s complete sound. You don’t get drowned out and lost anymore. You don’t have to worry about how you sound because you’ll know. Taking the weight of uncertainty away is one of the greatest strengths of in-ear monitoring. It’s your music, your fans and you.

Locking Down Your Sound

With IEMs you’ll find that your performance will gain some massive consistency. This is because you hear the same thing regardless of your postion on the stage. Without IEMs if you go left in one show and right in another you’ll micro-adjust and it will be more difficult to gain the experience to lock down a consistent performance. The practice will take longer to lock in your sound. Same thing for different venues and their sound systems, if one venue runs low, and the next venue runs hot that might make for an uncomfortable audience.



Compact

One of the greatest strengths of in-ear monitoring is that it’s really simple and doesn’t take much gear. For a setup you have a monitor mixer, cables, and your in-ear headphones. It’s a quick setup and it’s very liberating compared to more complex alternatives. Simple means a quick setup and tear down, which means more time to tune to the perfect sound.

Price

It all depends on what kind of setup you’re opting for. IEMs don’t have to be expensive. You don’t need to get the wireless battery packs or custom made in-ears to reap all the benefits. Wired universal fit in-ear headphones are great for getting started and gaining all these advantages for your live performance. Remember to stay within your means, there are a lot of really good universals out there. But IEMs are extremely recommended over wedges.

However if you have the means, a more liberating method is to get a wireless two piece system with a sound system linked transmitter and a wireless receiver carried on your person. With this you’ll be completely free to roam the stage, all while keeping track of your sound and being able to give your crowd your best show.

If you want to go all out, you can get custom fitted moulded ear pieces for maximum secure fitting. You won’t have to worry about them falling out and the sound quality will be the best by far as universal IEM headsets will let some ambient noise in where fitted IEMs won’t.

Pioneer DDJ-SR Review

DJ Equipment Review
February 14, 2017

Intro

Pioneer is pretty much a gold standard for DJ controllers. They carry high quality products for all levels from entry to professional. This DJ controller is geared toward semi-professional controllerist DJs who wants to see the live remixing innovations of state of the art controllers. I would suggest this controller to someone who’s been DJing for a while, someone who wants to become a professional DJ. It’s pretty complex and beginners may be a little lost. But it’s absolutely great for learning as well and won’t take too long to pick up.

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Design

The setup is an asymmetrical two turntable design with one on either side and a two channel mixer in the middle. It comes with it’s own amazing sound card and is USB powered. The DDJSR is smaller and lighter version of the brand’s SX model. It is extremely compact at just over shoulder width allowing for portability and ease of setup for temporary shows. It comes with a rugged steel face plate. On top of that it can probably handle a fall or two without too much issue. Meaning it can handle travel to and from gigs without babying. The sides are a strong and sturdy plastic. It is powered by USB for laptop connectivity with Serato installed. The sound card hosts a monitor headphone output, microphone input, balanced auxiliary inputs, and a balanced output to the PA.
The controls all feel like they’re extremely high quality. The wheels are really responsive, smooth and feel durable. The performance pads are very nice, somewhat rubbery but easy and satisfying to press and time with the beat.

The two turntables are asymmetrical where the layout on both the left and the right are the same, which may throw off some DJs used to a mirrored deck setup. Each deck comes with 8 performance effect pads, four effect selection controls, three FX knobs , a jog wheel, tempo control, and time signature selection.

Each deck has a shift key allowing you to moved to a third and fourth deck and control over up to four tracks at once. The DDJSR having 4 decks means this product is an amazing next step when moving up from an entry level controller. Though even as a beginner you’ll be able to efficiently and quickly learn the ropes with the software controlled effects to produce a professional sound and performance.

DDJSRThe deck’s jog wheels are pretty large and take up a big percentage of real estate on the compact controller. They’re not too big that they overtake it, so it’s actually pretty nice to have due to precision. The wheels also have multiple functionality depending on how you spin them. The top of the wheel allows you to scratch, while the side of the wheel allows you to skip and fine-tune where you are in a track in Serato.

Performance Pads

A huge plus is the effects are geared towards a live and impromptu environment, having only a cursory understanding of what the effect does is all you need. No additional preparation other than the knowledge is needed as the beat mapping and computer will take control of all the settings. Basically if you keep the phrasing and downbeats of your track intact you’ll find you can do some ridiculously amazing things with this piece of gear effortlessly. You just have to choose the beat lengths. Just keep an eye on the looping length to keep control of the beat with a cursory glance.

The most important part to realize is that unlike a loop or roll the slicer allows you to work with parts of the music that haven’t happened yet without impacting the rest of what gets played. You can insert future beats over the track in time with the music. Allowing you to bring in effects before they’ve happened and a whole new dimension to your creativity without ruining the flow of the track. You can add in some pretty awesome buildups and other effects on the fly and really make your show shine easily with this controller.

On top of these standard of living improvements for live shows, the DDJSR also comes with Pad Plus. It’s essentially a set of alternative settings to create next level effects. For example the slicer pad plus makes the slicer pads become triggerable effects like reverb fade outs. Once again these effects are all perfectly in sync with the music that can be incorporated at any time.

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FX Knobs and Software

In addition the DDJSR comes with 12 FX software packs and has lots of additional ones for purchase through the app package. You can have up to three active at a time and choose between having one effect that you have full control over 3 parameters of that effect and really deep dive into creating something unique. Or you can go with a much broader strokes with 3 effects being controlled at once. This is done through three FX knobs at the top of each deck. Honestly they take some getting used to as each effect is mapped it’s own way. But for the most part they seem to follow intuitive rules for knob assignment.

Slip mode

One of the premium features of this controller is the Slip Mode setting. Essentially what this setting does is allow for the track to continue to progress regardless of what’s done on the controller. So for example if you pause the track in Slip mode, the sound will be paused and won’t play out loud, but the track will keep going quietly on your Serato program. Essentially it mutes the track during loops, scratching, samples, and even “pausing”. So if you put effects on the start and stop of a song you can trigger them without interrupting the song, just by pausing and playing the track.
This brings us to the greatest strength of the DDJSR. You never have to interrupt your song to create effects.This is why I think it’s the best DJ controller for controllerist DJs as they will see the most benefit. But this controller just makes your performance so damn smooth when everything you do works with the flow of the music instead of in place of it. Whether you’re using Pad triggers, slip mode or FX knobs this controller’s got you covered.

Audio Mixer and Serato Sound Card

As a standard controller staple there’s not much to say about the mixer. Your expected features are there and everything is easy to use, well designed and fine. The mixer comes with trim, EQ and a high and low pass filter for controlling base in your performance.

The sound card on this piece of gear is really, really nice and extremely high quality. This is where Pioneer steps up their game. In addition to Serato’s output it comes with inputs for your Mic and Aux in to bring in more sound. The device has a balanced 1/4 jack output to make sure your sound comes out crisp. When I say the sound card is extremely high quality I mean it. It comes with 24 bit sound at a 44.1k sample rate. This means it sounds way better than it’s price point, from deep bass to high high hats. It is greater than Bluray sound quality. For an easy comparison, it’s got 256 times more precision on frequencies than CDs. Take the time to find some lossless tracks and you can blow your audience away with studio quality sound.

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USB Powered

The USB power is both good and bad. It cuts down on necessary cables and cleans up your play area for sure. But if you have too many USB devices plugged into your computer you can find yourself with power issues that may mess up your setup. If you’re thinking of hooking up multiple USB powered devices to your laptop look into a powered USB hub.

Serato Software

The DDJSR comes with a full version of Serato DJ (Normally $99). Of course it integrates very effectively with the Serato software that comes with the product. It was made for it after all. The software itself is frequently championed as one of the best. It’s extremely stable and has never crashed on me. Make sure your laptop can handle it though. The software lets you set 8 cue points per track. Which just so happens to be the max of this controller. It has my favorite library organization as well with Key, BPM and custom flagging.

Conclusion

The Pioneer DDJSR is one of my favorite controllers available on the market right now. Everything about it is tailored to creating a one of a kind live show that matches your personality. Whether it’s the rugged construction for carting it off to venues. The portable size without losing usability. The seamless effects integration with playing tracks. Or the unbelievably good sound card that puts out arena sound system quality. You gotta pick it up today.

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