All-in-one DJ controllers are often expensive. Plus, they tend to be large units that demand a lot of space. In this review, we check out a compact and affordable alternative from Numark.
Numark Mixdeck Express
The Numark Mixdeck Express offers a selection of features that are rarely found at this price point. Let’s check out what it has to offer both new and experienced DJs.
The Numark Mixdeck Express is a departure from the standard DJ controllers available. Let’s dive into the details to see what sets it apart from the competition.
The Numark Mixdeck Express offers DJs 3 channels. This is unusual as most controllers opt for either 2 or 4 channels. The first channel controls output from the left deck and the second channel controls the output of the right deck. The central channel controls an external source. This could be another media player, turntables, sampler, or any other Line-In device.
Each channel has access to a full 3-band EQ along with Gain control. Below the EQ you’ll find small Cue buttons to send the signal to your headphones. While functional they are a little small. If you happen to have big fingers it can be tricky to activate without also nudging the faders.
The Numark Mixdeck Express has all the basic functions a DJ needs.
Speaking of faders each channel also has a dedicated fader to adjust the audio level of the respective channel. The crossfader sits below these faders much like most DJ controllers. This crossfader is replaceable. Not a common feature on controllers at this price point. This is especially useful for aggressive scratch DJs. If you happen to break the fader or have a preferred brand it’s easy to remove the faceplate and install a new one.
Above the EQ you’ll find source switches along with Cue Gain and Master Gain control knobs. Where the Numark differs from other controllers is the Cue/Mix control. This is often also a knob on other controllers. But, on the Mixdeck it’s a small fader. It works as intended but I would have preferred another knob.
Despite a few quirky design choices, the Numark Mixdeck Express has everything you need to execute your transitions.
The Numark Mixdeck Express includes Serato DJ Lite. This is free introductory software that you can download from Serato. Serato DJ is one of the most popular and universal DJ software platforms available. It is feature-rich and capable. It also supports a staggering amount of hardware. If you ever want to upgrade your controller you’ll have access to many options.
Unfortunately, the Lite version of the software does come with some restrictions. One of the biggest is the lack of recording capability. If you want to record your sets to review you’ll need to upgrade the software or find an alternative solution.
Activation is simple. Once installed just connect the Mixdeck Express via the included USB cable and you’ll be ready to mix after selecting MIDI-PC as your source.
The Mixdeck Express has been around for a while. As a result, it functions with a range of other DJ software platforms. If you have a preferred platform you’ll likely be able to use the Mixdeck Express with it.
The Numark Mixdeck Express features touch-sensitive platters that are capable. Executing scratches works as intended and the general feel is fairly solid. While not as premium as more expensive controllers they are a decent starting point for new scratch DJs.
The Numark Mixdeck Express offer decent touch sensitive jogwheels.
Reverse and Brake buttons hug the top right and left of the jogwheels. Scratch and Search buttons are also available below the jogwheels. Scratch will allow you to use the top of the platters for scratching. Search will allow for quick skimming through the track.
The Numark Mixdeck Express offers long-throw pitch faders. A staple of Numark controllers that I’m happy to also see here. Longer pitch faders allow for more accurate adjustments. Beatmatching by ear can be a difficult skill to master. Having access to longer faders makes this learning process easier.
You can alter the range of the pitch fader via the dedicated buttons. This further allows you to hit the correct BPM you need to blend tracks. Especially useful for complicated routines that involve tracks with large BPM differences.
Momentary alteration of the pitch is also available via the Pitch Bend buttons. You can hold down either to increase or decrease speed.
Where the Express differs from nearly every other controller is the lack of a Sync function. While it is great to match your tracks by ear the Sync function can be a tool for more expressive mixing. It is also a shortcut that many new DJs rely on when getting started. Sync automatically adjusts the BPM and aligns the beat for easier mixing. While Sync is a feature that’s often a hot topic among DJs I would have like to see it here as an option.
This is one area where the Mixdeck Express shines. It is one of the few controllers on the market that handles a large range of media sources.
The CD drives will be a huge draw for DJs with an extensive CD collection. Several tracks never saw a vinyl or digital release. It can also make acquiring new music affordable as CDs are becoming increasingly cheap and easy to get secondhand. The CD players support MP3 CDs as well. Considering the capacity of CDs you could easily bring an extensive collection along with you to a gig.
The Numark Mixdeck Express supports both regular and MP3 CDs.
Supplementing the CD drives are dual USB ports. This further expands your portability options. Supported formats are also large with WAV, AIFF, and MP3 accessible.
The unit accurately reads information from the drives or USBs. Important information is available including Tag data on the two screens above the jogwheels.
There is a lot to like about the options on offer here. As a standalone unit, you can leave your laptop behind and just play using CDs or USB drives. There are few controllers in this price range that offer this much flexibility.
This is another area that some DJs may find to be a dealbreaker. The Express doesn’t offer any FX controls. You’ll have to connect the controller to your laptop. You can then activate and manipulate FX within the Serato software. While I tend to not use FX aggressively it would have been great to at least have a Low/High Pass filter available on the mixer.
The Numark Mixdeck Express doesn’t offer any performance pads. Another feature that is now very common on new controllers.
The Numark Mixdeck Express doesn’t feature any performance pads.
Pads often allow you to set cue points or activate extra performance functions. You can still set cues in the software but you won’t have instant access via buttons. If there is ever a new version of this controller I’d love to see at least a bank of 4 pads to access cue points.
The Numark Mixdeck Express does offer some basic loop controls. Located above the jogwheels are Loop In and Loop out buttons for setting manual loops. An added Reloop/Stutter button adds extra versatility.
There are no further looping controls. There is no way to halve or double your loop. Despite missing additional features the core functionality is there and works as expected.
The Express offers a good range of connection options. The XLR balanced output is a pleasing sight. This makes the controller capable of connecting to a range of PA speakers without having to rely on unbalanced connections.
Dual RCA options are also available for both Master and Master 2. To supplement these connections an AUX input option is available for other devices. With Phono/Line options it can handle turntables and other DJ media players. A ¼-inch microphone completes the selection on the back panel.
On the front panel, the secondary mic option is available with dedicated Bass, Treble, and Gain controls. Both ¼-inch and ⅛-inch headphone choices round out the selection of inputs and outputs.
The Numark Mixdeck Express retains a moderate footprint. It is a great portable option for the working DJ.
The Numark Mixdeck Express is a compact and portable controller for DJs.
Despite CD drives, the weight of the unit is still reasonable at just 13.45 lbs. (6.1kg). A compact and portable controller that packs in a lot of features.
Many CD DJ systems are bulky which adds to the appeal of the Numark Mixdeck Express.
Build Quality & Design
Numark is one of the leading manufacturers of affordable DJ controllers. The Numark Mixdeck Express is no different. Component quality is decent but not top-of-the-line. But at this price, it is hard to expect too much.
The knobs and faders all feel good and the unit, in general, has just enough heft. Unlike many all-plastic controllers, this one doesn’t feel cheap.
The screens on are not as appealing as more recent screens on controllers.
Design-wise it will not win any beauty contests. The all-black and silver aesthetic isn’t the worst but the screens are not great. This controller has been around for a while and it shows in the outdated screens. Technology in screens has progressed rapidly in the last few years. With attractive offerings from Denon and Pioneer, the Numark does look old in comparison.
What Others Have To Say
The Numark Mixdeck Express does have a small dedicated fanbase. They appreciate the cheaper entry point and CD functionality.
Are CDs Still Relevant?
In a rapidly changing modern world, the days of CDs are on the decline. When first introduced it was a revelation and massive jump forward compared to cassette tapes and vinyl. Vinyl has managed to maintain a foothold and in recent years even experienced a resurgence. But, CDs are firmly on the downward path.
MP3s rapidly became the preferred format for a new generation that wanted music on the go. Since that time even streaming services are beginning to encroach on the territory of digital files.
Many experienced DJs have an extensive CD collection.
But this is where there is still some relevance for CDs. Physical media will always hold a special place in people’s minds. A swarm of thousands of files on a laptop doesn’t resonate the same way as a well-curated CD collection. Album art is more prominent and there is a distinct tactile experience that comes with handling CDs. Plus once you buy it you own it for life.
CDs have also become extremely cheap. With their decline in popularity, it is easy to buy albums or compilation CDs that offer a broad collection of tracks.
There is also the case of familiarity. If you grew up with CDs you know what to expect. Plus if you have an extensive collection it can be tiresome to convert your CDs to digital formats.
As for relevance, only time will tell. I’m sure that for the foreseeable future there will be CD-based DJs. You never know it may even eventually experience a resurgence like vinyl.
If you are looking for an all-in-one DJ controller there are some exciting alternatives to the Numark Mixdeck Express. Here is a small selection of controllers worth considering.
Denon Prime Go Review
The Prime Go is the latest portable all-in-one controller from Denon. This unique unit offers features that no other controller can boast.
- Built-in power supply with up to 4+hrs battery life.
- Attractive display screen with lots of performance features.
- The full digital unit supports USB and SD cards but cannot handle CDs.
Denon Prime Go
Pioneer XDJ-RX2 Review
If you have ambitions of playing in clubs the Pioneer XDJ-RX2 is a good all-in-one alternative. It offers a familiar layout and good features.
- A large central screen that displays waveforms and more.
- Full version software and a layout that mimics pro gear.
- Only two channels may restrict some DJs.
Read our full Pioneer XDJ-RX2 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer XDJ RX2
Denon Prime 4 Review
The Denon Prime 4 is the flagship all-in-one controller from Denon. Featuring extensive connection options and features it’s an excellent unit for mobile DJs.
- A massive central screen that is touch-capable and vivid.
- Impressive mobile DJ features like Zone output.
- Substantially more expensive than the Mixdeck Express.
Read our full Denon Prime 4 review for more detailed information.
Denon Prime 4
Should You Buy?
The Numark Mixdeck Express is a unique controller that serves a distinct purpose. It is ideal for the working mobile DJ that has amassed a large CD music collection. A more modern DJ controller will offer a larger feature set. But if you are looking to streamline your DJ setup and need CD functionality the Numark Mixdeck Express is a great choice.
Numark Mixdeck Express