The mid-tier controller market has really bulged to encapsulate tons of models that straddle both pro, intermediate and beginner demands. Many of these controllers represent awesome value for money and they’re buzzing with great features that cater to users of all kinds.
The controller market as a whole has shown its ability to cater for DJs at all price points and since controllers offer arguably the most flexible and powerful all-in-one solution for mixing, it comes as no real surprise that they’re claiming the top spot in many clubs worldwide.
So what controllers really stick out of this mid-tier market? There are a few, but here, we’ll be focussing on the Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 and Pioneer DDJ-SB3, two superb controllers with excellent features at awesome prices!
Bottom Line: Numark has transformed from an old-school veteran music tech manufacturer to a market leader within the lower price brackets. Despite their slim and attractive prices, Numark really packs crazy tech into their products. The Numark Mixtrack series is probably their most well known and the Mixtrack Pro 3 is one of the best entries in that coveted series.
Numark’s research and development of the mid-tier controller market have produced excellent results. The Mixtrack Pro 3 is one of the leaders of this awesome series and within it, Numark’s tremendous experience and engineering really come to the fore. This controller has been a best seller worldwide for some time and its status shows no sign of erosion – it’s a fan favorite and is well reviewed globally.
Build and Features
Firstly, the Mixtrack Pro 3 is large and spacious. This is excellent for some as it really makes the controller feel free-flowing and practical, though it sacrifices some portability. It makes no attempt to be super compact, so don’t expect it to fit in a small bag or across a small desk. The upshot, as mentioned, is that the controls are spacious and easy to navigate.
This controller has full-size 100mm tempo faders, which are nice and smooth for mixing to extra fine BPM increments. The jogwheels are large and are made from weighty metal for a high-quality feel. There’s 3-band EQs, all the appropriate necessary gain controls, filters, and each deck has an FX bank and sample/trigger pads. To add a little innovation, Numark has equipped this controller with a touch-strip that allows you to navigate tracks quickly and easily without touching your laptop!
Overall, this controller packs many great features into a highly usable footprint at a great price. It’s an awesome mixing package for DJs of all levels and it’s sure to deliver for bedroom DJing, house parties or proper club mixes at amateur or pro level.
- Awesome price
- Large design is spacious and practical to use
- Will work out of the box with most software
- Not so portable!
Bottom Line: Building upon Pioneer’s highly reputable budget and mid-tier DDJ-SB series (the DDJ-SB and DDJ-SB2), the DDJ-SB3 makes necessary improvements and additions in order to cement its position firmly towards pole position for controllers at this price range.
Pioneer are the industry leaders and they provide equipment for pro use but recently, you can’t fault their dedication to other corners of the market. The DDJ-SB3 is a super-solid controller that comes with tons of awesome features, tremendous build quality and it’s all wrapped up with Pioneer branding and proven brand reliability.
Build and Features
This quality sports a Pioneer build that gives it an instant edge of professionalism and finesse. The faders are well-designed, the rotary encoders and knobs are robust and the general feeling of the controller is pretty high-end. It doesn’t have the steely construction of high-end models but it feels pretty damn good for a mid-tier controller.
Like many other controllers at this price point, it has full 3-band EQs, gain controls, well-made pitch faders, cross-faders and channel faders, 4 sample/trigger pads per deck and pad FX banks also per deck. One key improvement this made over the SB2 is that it has dedicated play/pause and cue buttons per deck. The SB2 built these into the performance pads. Needless to say, this is a massive improvement which makes the SB3 a far better controller.
This controller adds to its simple and streamlined setup with some quirky features. Firstly, since this controller was designed in collaboration with DJ Jazzy Jeff, it has a “Pad Scratch” feature. This is essentially an automated scratch effect that helps you emulate classic scratch movements at the press of a button. It can help you practice real scratches by trying to recreate the sound triggered by the FX. Some might claim it’s a gimmick, others might say it can make your set better and more interesting but whichever way you look at it, it’s pretty cool and it might just suit your genre or mixing style.
A second addition is the FX fade-out. At the press of a button, you can trigger an automatic fade-out of a track whilst you introduce another track. This is excellent for mixing songs across genre or tempo.
- Superb build quality from Pioneer
- Quite portable
- Some innovative additions
- Relatively cramped
So, Is There a Clear Winner?
No! As always, it largely comes down to preference. Both controllers here are class-leading in their own ways.
To break it down, the Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 is cheaper by around $100 or so. It’s a bit more plastic-y and it’s larger, but neither is a real downside. It has features equal to the Pioneer with extra 100mm pitch faders and a cool touch-strip which is actually really handy.
The DDJ-SB3, on the other hand, is smaller and more portable but the downside is it can feel a little cramped – some won’t mind that at all. FX fade and Pad Scratch are cool but not everyone will need them and most won’t use it at all. On the plus side, this controller is really well made and let’s face it – everyone loves Pioneer!
Overall, neither choice is the wrong choice. Both are excellent controllers!