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djDecks • View topic - Review: Numark Total Control

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 Post subject: Review: Numark Total Control PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2008 5:46 pm 
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Numark Total Control

For those who don't know, the Total Control is just a controller - there's no built-in sound card. This might be an issue for those on a budget, but at least there are no buggy drivers to worry about (Uli Behringer, can you hear me? :mrgreen: )
I got my unit from Thomann for 249 Euros, which is a little below the current average price in Germany. I've seen it for less in the US, but I guess the reason for the difference is the usual european customers premium fee as seen on many other price tags.

Image

Package contents
Inside the box there is of course the Total Control, a USB cable, a power supply, two overlays, a bunch of CDs and a very basic quickstart guide, which is kind of useless if you have ever seen a USB port before. The full manual is on one of the CDs. The others contain the LE versions of Numark Cue, which is basically a reskinned version of Virtual DJ, and Traktor. I gave both a quick shot and I am already sure that I'll stick to DJDecks. But more about that later. The overlays have the button assignment for Cue LE or Traktor LE printed on one side and are blank and white on the other. They are easy to change, you only have to pull off the fader knobs to do that.
The power supply is not really necessary, as the Total Control is bus powered. In certain situations you still might find a use for it, for example if you have a bunch of other USB gear to hook up and might come close to or exceed the power limit of the USB port, so it's nice that Numark put it in the box.

Look and feel
The first unpacking led to mixed feelings, to be honest. This device is VERY light. not much heavier than my Hercules DJControl. The whole thing is made out of plastic, which is not a bad thing if you want to lug it around a lot. To me, less weight means more portability. It probably won't last for 20 years, but I am pretty sure I won't need it for that long anyway. The plastic look might make it seem a little less „professional“. Some people might be bothered by that, but I took a Hercules DJ Control MP3 to a club before, and I didn't care. To make this clear: The Total Control is and does look like a DJ controller, the Hercules is one but looks a little like a toy.

overview
jog wheel close-up
eq/master section in the middle


The jog wheels feel very nice, and so do the push buttons for play, pause, cue etc. Plus they all give visual feedback via LEDs.
The black knobs that are being used for master volume, cue volume and mix, effects, loop selection and as selectors for the loop sampler in Cue LE feel very nice, too. The silver ones feel a little cheap. On the other hand, they double as kill buttons, so I guess Numark had to use different hardware here. Plus the silver plastic, although adding to a better overview as to where the EQs are, simply looks bad.
The crossfader does at least feel comparable to those on standard Numark mixers. The volume and pitch faders though are a bit, well, wobbly. You can adjust them precisely, but they just don't feel that solid. They move a lot to the left and right (just as the ones on the Hercules).

In use
Before I tried to connect the Total Control to DJDecks, I installed Traktor 3 LE and Cue 4.x LE on Mac OS 10.5. After a little bit of updating, everything worked as it was supposed to. That Numark thing lit up like a christmas tree. All those fancy lights not only look good, they actually help keeping everything under control. Anyway, I won't go into too much detail with setting up those programs properly as this is the DJDecks forum. More on how it works with our favourite piece of software later.
I really enjoy mixing with the Total Control because it simply does what it is supposed to do. The layout is just fine for me, although some people complain about the knobs being a little close together, but I don't see it that way. I admit that a few of the FX buttons could use some more space around them to be a little more accessible, but everything that is important is easy to get to.
The jog wheels are not touch sensitive, so you probably wouldn't want do try to improve your digital turntablism skills on this thing, but for mixing they are fine. They're rubberized, big enough and they actually spin if you give them a little push. Beatmatching is not a problem at all, and even the occasional backspin to satisfy the crowd that screams for a rewind won't be a problem. Just remember to switch into scratch mode first. :wink:
The pitch faders could be a little longer, but this bothers me on most controllers. The point is that the biggest fader on a midi device does not really give you a finer pitch range as this is limited to a certain number of steps by the midi protocol itself. The faders on the Vestax VCI 100 aren't any better as far as adjustability is concerned. Yes, they feel more solid, but they don't give you a real advantage.
Amongst the things I really liked is the big center knob that is used to browse playlists and select songs. It works differently in various programs but so far it always does it's job to replace the mouse for that purpose. You turn it for up and down movement in the playlist, push it to jump from the folders to the tracks (in Cue LE and Traktor LE), and then press one of the load buttons below to, well, load. Much better than the joystick on the Hercules. Sure, you can switch the DJControl into browse mode and use the jog wheel, but to me that's one more step that distracts me from the actual mixing.


DJDecks integration
I'll probably change this part of the review sooner or later as soon as I found out more about all the button assignments and/or the support for the Total Control is being updated.

Okay, let's face it, so far the DJDecks integration is not perfect yet, and nobody expects that. I found some quirks, but I have to admit I didn't bother trying to map all the controls manually.
In basic mixing, there are no real problems. Most of the buttons and faders are assigned very closely to the Cue LE overlay, so there's not much guesswork involved. Faders, EQ knobs etc. work accordingly. I didn't manage to find out how to set cue points though. As far as I know there's no real documentation about the button mapping – maybe you could help me out here a little, Adion? Sure, I could have asked. So far I didn't, folks.
What I did find out is that you can assign a whole set of buttons to functions you want and need. I also didn't try that yet.
One thing I don't like too much is the fact that everytime you load a new track, the pitch resets to zero – but of course the slider on the Total Control does not. So as soon as you try to adjust the pitch, you'll have a huge speed jump first. Cue LE didn't do that. Is it possible to make DJDecks memorize the last pitch setting and keep it?
A similar thing happens with the volume controls and faders, but only on startup, and that is another midi problem, I guess.
One thing that actually worries me is the way to switch directories. To do that, you have to use the scroll knob, find the directory and then press both load buttons simultaneously. The problem is, if the track window is active at this moment and not the directory window, you'll load some track into two decks. Why can't the knob/button also do the directory switching? It does in Cue LE and Traktor LE.
Another thing: If you switch into scratch mode, do a backspin, wait for the jog wheel to stop, exit scratch mode and press play – it does not work. You have to spin the jog wheel again first before play works again.


Conclusion
Well, if you want something that will last for 15+ years, go get a VCI 100. Other than that, the Total Control is a nice product for an acceptable price. It works as it is supposed to, it's layout makes sense and overall it gives you a lot of control over your mixing software of choice. DJDecks integration needs some improvement and maybe documentation in my opinion, but given time, this will happen. Overall, the Total Control does not feel like a computer interface or mouse replacement, it feels like DJ gear. When I used it for mixing, I didn't bother about what button to press and where it is. I just did it and had a lot of fun while doing it – all without ever touching the mouse or trackpad. And that is a good thing, I guess. And as far as durability is concerned: Treat it right, and it will last quite a while.


P.S.: English is not my native language, there might a few things unclear in this review. If this is the case, let me know and I'll try to correct that.

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 Post subject: Re: Review: Numark Total Control PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2008 8:43 pm 
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Nice review. Your English is great by the way!! A friend of mine has this unit which he really likes. I haven't managed to turn him to djDecks yet tho!!
I think the support/updated integration will come in time. We just need to be patient. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Review: Numark Total Control PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2008 10:52 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Review: Numark Total Control PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 2:27 pm 
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Thanks, mcflemp! I can never decide if I need a DJ-oriented controller or not... the jogs on the DM2 are nice but the rest of it is kinda lacking (needs sliders and knobs if I'm gonna use it to mix, or even set pitch) and I don't really want to take two controllers out with me when all I'm doing is DJing. I'd rather use a controller than a CDJ for cueing and pitch control I think, but I'm not totally sure about that yet. Either way, I prefer a real mixer, so I'd be assigning the extra stuff by hand to effects and such anyway. Basically I need two sliders on my DM2 to use for pitch. As it stands, the Total Control, the VCI, the XP10 or XP5, or maybe one of the Denon units would be nice to have. Anyway, I appreciate this review.

C

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