Review: Numark NS6


So after a couple years of DJing with Ableton Live using my Allen & Heath Xone:2D I’ve decided I don’t like it. It’s not fun.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Ableton Live, but as a DJ platform it’s clunky. Sure there are some definite pros to DJing with Live but personally I feel the cons outweigh them.

So based on the above, plus a decent tax return, I decided to pick up the Numark NS6.

Numark NS6

First impressions

My decision was really down to the Traktor Kontrol S4 or NS6. I didn’t get a chance to play with the S4 first hand but I was able to compare an S2 and the NS6 side by side.

Coming from a vinyl background the NS6 felt much more natural to me, probably in large part due to the long pitch faders and bigger platter. Setting cue points was extremely intuitive – more so than the S2 – and I was able to start mixing immediately without so much as a glance at the manual.



The NS6 has all the outputs you’d expect: two main outputs (RCA and XLR) and a booth output (RCA only). The mixer layout is fairly compact which may throw some people off, but the knobs and faders feel sturdy.

One nice addition is that you can also use the NS6 as a conventional mixer: the two main channels offer switchable line/phono inputs while the other two offer switchable line/mic inputs. Realistically I’m not sure how practical this would be in a club setting as more than likely you would be plugging the NS6 into the house mixer alongside any turntables or CDJs, but it’s still a nice addition nonetheless.

I do have a gripe with the placement of the ground connection, however. It’s at the far end of the inputs rather than being in between the two phono inputs. Depending on your cabling this could be quite a nuisance (it was for me, anyway).

NS6 rear view

Where the NS6 really excels is with its large high-resolution platters, long pitch faders and “strip search” (track scan) ribbons. For me these three things combined rivalled playing on vinyl.


I have to admit I had never actually used Serato before though I had seen it so I knew what to expect. The layout is fairly intuitive so it didn’t take me long to get used to it.

Most of the gripes I have with the NS6 are with the ITCH software, and not with the controller itself. For example, the key lock (“Master tempo”) algorithm is very glitchy – it’s more akin to Live’s “beat” warp mode than something as smooth as Complex or Complex Pro. From what I’ve read, Serato Scratch has far superior key lock but ITCH is always a few feature cycles behind.

The FX are also lacklustre. The HP and LP filters are fine but, for example, the reverb is horrendous to the point where it’s not usable. Some of the other FX also felt a bit too gimmicky for me.

One thing I was pleasantly surprised with, and which seems to be a feature specific to the NS6/ITCH combo, is the “bleep” reverse mode. Basically, it does a momentary reverse of the track without throwing off the playback location. This allows for some very interesting mixing possibilities, and it’s something I have to restrain myself from going overboard with because it’s just so much fun! There is a caveat with this feature, however: it’s accessed by pressing the shift button followed by the reverse button. If you forget to press the shift button first the playback will go into full-on reverse mode. It’s unfortunate they didn’t do this the other way around, as accidentally putting a track into reverse mode is not something you can easily recover from when you have another track mixed in.

Serato ITCH


The integration with Serato ITCH is extremely tight. Once you’ve got music loaded into your library you won’t need to touch your laptop. At all. Navigating your library is a breeze and you can even do some limited searching using the buttons on the NS6.

While I occasionally had issues with my Xone:2D registering itself with Windows 7, the NS6 connectivity has been flawless. I’ve never had to mess around with different USB ports, reboots, or anything else.

NS6 with ITCH


The good:

  • good build quality
  • high resolution jog wheels (“the best on the planet”)
  • long pitch faders

The bad:

  • software lacking in several areas (keylock, FX)
  • short faders may turn some people off
  • some questionable design decisions, such as placement of ground connections

Overall I would highly recommend the NS6. Whether you are just getting into digital DJing, or a seasoned veteran, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. While some of the issues with the software do put me off a bit I have my fingers crossed that they will be resolved with time.

Roland GAIA SH-01 first impressions

I had the opportunity to play around with this synth at a
local music shop and I have to say I was quite impressed
Everything about this keyboard felt good to me. The
construction felt sturdy, the keys felt good, the knobs and sliders were well
spaced and quite tweakable, etc. No real gripes in this department.
Pretty much everything you’d expect from a modern VA
here: 3 oscillators with 21 waveforms (7 x 3 variations), 64 voices, arp with
64 patterns. (Full specs here)
Some of the specific features I’m really digging:
  • tap tempo delay (quite handy for live performance)
  • separate filters for each oscillator: LPF, HPF, BPF,
    PKG (-12 dB/-24 dB)
  • the ability to edit multiple oscillator settings at
    once (i.e. sweep the aforementioned separate filters together!)
Another nice touch is the ability to save your patches to
a USB flash drive, although I can’t see this being the kind of synth where
you’d have that many patches! (The on-board memory allows for 8 banks x 8
patches per bank).
Lastly, the effects section offers 5 separate stages, each
of which allows you to choose an effect:
  • DIST: Distortion, Fuzz, Bit Crash
  • FLANGER: Flanger, Phaser, Pitch Shifter
  • DELAY: Delay, Panning Delay (with tempo sync function)
  • REVERB: Reverb
  • LOW BOOST: Low Boost

A good variety of waveforms here: sawtooth, supersaw,
square, triangle, sine, noise and pulse, each with 3 “variations”
(from what I understand, the variation button adjusts the harmonics of the
Really, my only gripe in the sound department is the
filters – they didn’t sound bad per se but they did sound very digital and
extremely resonant. This did make for some pretty wild sounds when coupled with
the on-board distortion and fuzz effects though.
Ease of use:
Everything I tried to do was dead simple, which I think is what Roland was going for. There is no menu diving needed to do anything.
The most complicated thing here is the “SHIFT” button, which allows
you to access some (slightly) hidden features that you may need to consult the
manual for. For example, setting up modulation, oscillator panning, controlling
some of the FX parameters, etc. Once you know how to use it you’re set though.
Overall impression:
I quite enjoyed my time with the SH-01. I don’t think it
breaks any new ground but what it does do it does well, and I think it would make
a great (cheap) alternative to more expensive VAs.
  • Very easy to program and tweak
  • Separate filters for each oscillator
  • Lots of on-board effects, including tap-tempo delay
  • Great price ($699)
  • No LCD means no patch naming (oh well!)
  • Not multi-timbral

Choosing a delay pedal

I like delay, a lot, and when a like something a lot I generally get all obsessed with it and need to know everything about it – how it works, what the options are, how much they cost, etc. And so here we are!

Analog vs. digital:
In the audio world many seem to think that analog is better than digital. In some cases it may very well be, but in many it’s just “different”. I think delay is one of those cases. Some of the key differences between digital and analog delays:

  • Delay time: analog delays cannot achieve the same delay times as digital. Typical delay time for an analog pedal is around 500-600ms
  • Looping: to my knowledge there’s no such thing in analog pedals (tape delay is whole other world though)
  • Reverse delay: ditto
  • Tap tempo: a very useful feature, but rarely one you’ll find in an analog delay (and when you do, expect to pay a premium, i.e. Diamond Memory Lane 2 @ about $550)
  • Tone: with digital what you hear is what you get. With analog the delay is much more “coloured” – each repeat comes back a little “warmer” (less highs/more lows) and with less definition.
  • Cost: expect to pay more for an analog delay, and expect the price to increase alongside the delay time.

Other considerations:

  • Tone/filter control: very useful for making your delay warmer or brighter (boosting highs and/or cutting lows). In a digital pedal this will allow you to achieve a more analog-sounding delay.
  • Reverb: I’ve only seen this in one (digital) pedal (EHX Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai). It’s pretty handy for making the delays spacier and transparent. It also allows you to achieve some basic reverbs by rolling back the repeats and delay time.
  • Modulation: that is, modulating the pitch of the delays to get a haunting chorus-like effect.
  • Multi-tap: this can have different meanings. In some cases it means multiple delay times (i.e. one delay at 300ms, and one at 600ms), in others it means “repeat exactly X times”.
  • Expression pedal: some pedals will allow you to control certain parameters via an expression pedal. This can be handy if you like to play with feedback but don’t want to break your back in the process.
  • Stereo: usually stereo outs equates to ping-pong delays (repeats alternating back and forth between left and right), but in some cases you may have more control over it. Unless you have two amps or plug directly into a PA, this is really only useful for recording.
  • Self-oscillation: this is when the feedbacks build up and start to resonate, resulting in a wacky “spaceship” sound. You’ll hear this in some digital pedals, but it’s inherent in analog.

If you’re wondering, I personally own the EHX Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai. It’s a great pedal that can get some fairly warm and transparent delays via the filter and reverb knobs. My second pick would be the Diamond Memory Lane 2, but I don’t have $550 to drop on a delay. In a perfect world I would own both 🙂

If you’re on a budget and want a decent analog delay check out the MXR Carbon Copy. No tap tempo, but it does offer modulation (you’ll need to open it up to change the speed and depth though). For a good basic digital delay you can’t go wrong with the Boss DD pedals (they’re up to the DD-7 now).

I hope these points give you something to think about next time you’re in the market for a new delay pedal. Happy shopping!

Korg M50 first impressions

This review is from playing around with the 61 key version for a couple 30 minutes sessions.

It’s not built like a tank, but it does feel gig-worthy. I noticed some weirdness (burn-in?) on the display. Normally this wouldn’t be surprising for a floor model, although in this case it’s a bit worrisome given that the store would have only had it for a few days.

I’m not as picky as some regarding keyboard action, so it felt fine to me. The knobs and buttons felt sturdy as well. I had no real concerns about build quality aside from the aforementioned display issue.

There are some extremely cheesy combi presets, that’s to be expected, but they are all quite expressive and show off the power of combi mode. If you like the “Korg sound” then I think you’ll be happy. It’s a big step up from the TR, sound-wise.

  • Keys: Warm and responsive. The amp sim adds a nice touch the EPs.
  • Drums: There are some pretty decent sounds in this thing. Maybe not enough to stand up on their own, but certainly to augment another source.
  • Pads: Warm and lush with lots of movement.
  • Orchestral/acoustic: The standard fare. Strings would be passable for live performance but I don’t think I’d use them in the studio.
  • Synths: A bit thin but some of the leads were definitely usable. To satisfy my curiosity I downloaded the voice list: it covers everything one would need to recreate most subtractive synth sounds – sync, PWM, etc. Of course you’re not going to get the same sort of flexibility as you would with a VA.

The effects section is quite comprehensive and easy to access. I was hoping that all parameters would be assignable, but sadly it seems only selected ones are. Along with the single stereo out, this is yet another limitation of the M50, but not a huge surprise given the price point.

The chord buttons could be pretty handy for live performance. Ditto for the tap tempo. I wasn’t able to check out the computer integration at the music shop, but if it’s stable then this would make a welcome addition to anyone’s studio.

Ease of use:
If you’ve ever used a Korg then the layout will be quite familiar. I was able to find everything I wanted fairly easily. I didn’t have a chance to try editing a patch, but I was able to find the edit mode easily. I imagine the touch screen and computer integration will simplify the editing process greatly.

The one gripe I have in this area is the arp. There were dozens if not hundreds of patterns and I didn’t see any sort of categorization to them. I spent a couple minutes just trying to find a basic “chord” mode, to no avail.

Overall impression:
An impressive piece of gear at this price point, and one that would be equally as useful in the studio as it would be on stage. It won’t replace everything I can do with my laptop, but it will come extremely close.

Update: I found out that the local music store has it listed at a couple hundred more than I was expecting. Probably not worth considering until the price drops.