More and more DJs are trading in their turntables for laptops, lured by the advantages of digital audio -- searchable music catalogues, for example -- and the appeal of carrying less equipment around. The digital transition can be bittersweet, though, as DJs come to miss the feeling of scratching, cueing and matching tempos with tried-and-true analogue turntables and mixers.
Manufacturers have struggled to bridge this gap between analogue and digital DJing with a number of solutions, ranging from awkwardly retro-fitted turntables to flimsy USB-connected boxes. After reviewing our fair share of digital DJ tools over the past few years, we're happy to say that nothing approaches the sophisticated features and rock-solid design of the Numark NS7.
The NS7 package also includes professional DJ software, Serato Itch, that offers seamless integration with the NS7 hardware, and a USB-connected mixing console that doubles as a four-channel computer audio card. It's also in a price class of its own, retailing for a whopping £1,350 or thereabouts.
For DJs who are accustomed to managing a tabletop-sized flotilla of analogue DJ gear, the idea of stripping it all down to a laptop and a small DJ controller like the Vestax VCI-300, might seem too drastic. The NS7 meets you halfway between the extremes, measuring 76 by 10 by 38cm and weighing around 15.9kg. You're definitely not going to fit the NS7 into a laptop bag, unlike the VCI-300. In fact, given its weight and awkward size, it takes about two people to carry it comfortably.
The upshot of the NS7's size and weight is a spacious design that begs for abuse. Typically, these USB DJ controllers feel fragile and are constructed from lightweight plastic. The NS7, by comparison, is wrapped in metal from head to toe. The oversize, rubber buttons used for the main playback controls are similar to the ones we loved on the Numark iDJ2, and respond well to aggressive use.
Another design feature that makes the NS7 stand out from the crowd is a steel laptop stand connected to the back of the system. The stand can be quickly disconnected for easier transportation, or for peace of mind if you're uncomfortable suspending your laptop over the floor. The NS7's weight and stability is sufficient for us to trust that our laptop won't tumble off during an enthusiastic DJ set.
The NS7 offers all the standard features we like to see on a DJ controller, including high-grade audio outputs (gold-plated RCA or balanced XLR), line/mic input, serviceable faders, club-friendly illuminated controls and full-sized knobs that feel just like their analogue counterparts. Some unique features, such as touch strips that control playhead position, and oversize reverse switches for each deck, come as pleasant surprises.
Without question, though, the coolest features on the NS7 are the two motorised, 7-inch turntables. They do an outstanding job of emulating the control and feel of working with vinyl, except you don't need to worry about worn needles or skipping tone arms. Compared to systems like the Hercules DJ Console Rmx, VCI-300 or iDJ2, which use weighted-plastic jog wheels to approximate turntable-like control, the all-metal, direct-drive decks on the NS7 leave the competition in the dust.