Anyone using USB media controllers? (Cortex, Denon, Numark?)

Many DJ's are "switching up" to computers as the new way to DJ. They provide near-instant access to large song lists and can be integrated to control video and DMX lighting.

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Anyone using USB media controllers? (Cortex, Denon, Numark?)

Postby DJStuCrew » Fri Mar 14, 2008 5:15 am

For all of my colleagues who, like myself, are uncomfortable with the idea of trusting their show to a computer, how many of you are using a USB media controller?

I've been using the Cortex for about a year now and am quite happy with it. I also have a Denon DN-HD2500 that works extremely well. Lucky me, I also got to test the Numark D2 Director!

Anyone else?
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Postby CJ Greiner » Fri Mar 14, 2008 9:51 am

I guess those are all really computers too...

I do like the idea of a media controller where you can easily access all of your songs and load them into the players.

I personally use computers, but I'm considering using a physical interface with the computer so that I don't have to use keyboard shortcuts.

The media controllers you mentioned are all good ones.
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Re: Anyone using USB media controllers? (Cortex, Denon, Numa

Postby DJStuCrew » Fri Mar 14, 2008 3:58 pm

Yes, technically in their dark little electronic hearts lies a computer, just as the ignition control systems in our cars do, or the guts of our CD players, etc. Yet the dedicated computers / microprocessors do one thing. Your average laptop would be just as happy running auto-CAD as it is running Virtual DJ. They're #1 on the thieve's Hit Parade, whereas most of 'em wouldn't have any clue what to do with a Cortex.

Those are my main reasons for not wanting to trust my show to a regular computer. And there are potential downsides to the USB units, too. For one thing, the manufacturers occasionally offer firmware updates. (Firmware being software for dedicated microprocessors.) There have been a few issues that had...well... issues. So far, though, I haven't heard of any show-stoppers.

That said, I'm just curious to see how many among us have opted for the computerless playback solutions.

Oh, and those excellent Numark CD players that interface with your computer software work REALLY well! I have a friend who uses them and got a chance to play one night when we worked together. I was impressed! If you're going to use a computer, but don't mind dragging along a few CDs too, they're the best of both worlds.
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Postby DJ Scott » Tue Mar 18, 2008 2:30 pm

I've been CPS since 1999, have had controllers since 2003.
I have a Numark DMC-1 in one head unit and a DAC-2 in another.
I won't get into Computers crashing over a CD player failing (as I've had more CD players die than a computer crash) so don't even go there.
It's all a comfort thing. If you like CD's, then stay with them but I won't debate the merits of cueing any of 27 thousand songs in seconds and the fact that my entire library weighs only eight pounds.
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Re: Anyone using USB media controllers? (Cortex, Denon, Numa

Postby SteveCie » Fri Mar 21, 2008 4:31 pm

I have been using PC for about 4 years now. Three years ago I picked up the PCDJ DAC-3 Midi Controller. It is great!

I've had a chance to use try the Cortex and the Denon controllers, and they are nice and all, but I have not felt compelled to move towards them.

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Postby DJStuCrew » Sat Mar 22, 2008 5:31 am

DJ Scott wrote:I've been CPS since 1999, have had controllers since 2003.
I have a Numark DMC-1 in one head unit and a DAC-2 in another.
I won't get into Computers crashing over a CD player failing (as I've had more CD players die than a computer crash) so don't even go there.
It's all a comfort thing. If you like CD's, then stay with them but I won't debate the merits of cueing any of 27 thousand songs in seconds and the fact that my entire library weighs only eight pounds.


Actually, it's an experience thing. I use computers every day at home. I'm a techno-geek like most DJs and love 'em when they work right. Any problems I might've had aside though, I've also seen some true train wrecks that other people had due to computer malfunctions. Not long ago I was hired to play in-between the sets of a band. The band played one song... and then their computer crapped-out. (They were some sort of Kreftwerk knock-off band, so everything ran on their 'puter.) I ended up having to play the entire party. Lesson learned.

CDs have the dust n' dirt problem which has been the bane of recorded music since the beginning. A record might crackle or pop due to dust. A CD player will error-correct for minor data mis-reads, but a big one will stop playback. Not good. Minidiscs were even worse. They'll sound perfect... or not sound at all.

The Cortex and other USB media controllers offer the best of both worlds: the ability to carry your library on small drives (either full blown hard drives, flash drives or even an iPod) like you would with a computer, but have a dedicated piece of hardware designed to do ONE thing -- play back music -- without the possibility of the "blue screen of death." Another reason I prefer these is because they're cheap enough to carry a back-up! With two copies of your library and two playback units, you're 100% covered!

I've just read about another cool development: American Audio has introduced a player and a mixer which uses SD cards as a playback source! So you can put your music files onto SD cards, which can hold up to 4 GB, and are about the size of a postage stamp!

In any case, I wasn't trying to provoke a debate on which is best. Just wondering if anyone else is using a USB controller and what your experiences might be. I've been extremely pleased with my Cortex unit, and the Denon unit is extremely good as well. Any others?
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Re: Anyone using USB media controllers? (Cortex, Denon, Numa

Postby jonnyrockcom » Sat Apr 19, 2008 9:19 am

I'm looking into adding a Numark D2 or the Denon controller to one of my systems. I've seen a lot of refurbished D2 on the internet. Anyone have any problems with this unit?

I'm looking for user feedback for both units if anyone has any? Thanks! - jonny
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Re: Anyone using USB media controllers? (Cortex, Denon, Numa

Postby DJStuCrew » Sat Apr 19, 2008 1:12 pm

jonnyrockcom wrote:I'm looking into adding a Numark D2 or the Denon controller to one of my systems. I've seen a lot of refurbished D2 on the internet. Anyone have any problems with this unit?

I'm looking for user feedback for both units if anyone has any? Thanks! - jonny


I reviewed both of these units for Mobile Beat and there are pros and cons to each. Personally I prefer the Denon. In short, the D2 has a lot going for it; it has the biggest display of any of the controllers. It comes with a keyboard, whereas you must buy one for the others, as well as a USB hub. It has a true cue (where it will keep playing as long as you hold down the button) and an excellent stutter. And it's pretty! The BIGGEST drawback is SEARCH TIME.

Now, they might've fixed this with a firmware update, but the last time I tied to use it, it took forever to search for tracks. I have a 500 GB hard drive with a little over 40,000 tracks. Searching by artist, it takes the unit about 20 seconds (not bad), but if you search by TITLE, it can take as long as three minutes!!! If you're playing oldies, you're screwed. I now use the unit for ceremonies, with all of my seating, processional and recessional tracks on a 2GB flash drive as the source. For that application, it SMOKES!

The Denon has, by far, the fastest search time of all of the controllers to date, although the Cortex isn't far behind. It also has an excellent scratch feature -- the best I've heard from ANY digital device -- as well as an array of on-board special effects. (You won't need that outboard Pioneer unit!) The display is decent, but there's a LOT going on, so if your eyesight is less than perfect, you'll squint a lot. What I like most is the on-board hard drive. They've included a 40 GB internal drive, so you can park your most used "aces" there, and even without your external, put on a decent show. If you own a 4000 or 4500 CD player, you can also plug IT into the controller, so it's fully backward compatible if you still feel the need to carry CDs around, or want to be prepared if someone hands you something. The drawbacks: no keyboard (ya gotta buy it), only one USB port (so a hub, which you also must buy, is a must), the power switch is located in a stupid position, inaccessible if you rack mount the thing. Back on the plus side, though, they've adequately powered the USB port, so you won't need to use an external wall wart to power your hub.

And the last drawback: the Denon costs about $400.00 more than the Numark.

The Cortex HDC-1000 is what I use. It's a bit stripped-down and bare bones, but it is quite reliable. It hasn't always been, but because it's been around the longest, their engineers have had time to work out all the bugs, and firmware updates have fixed all of the obvious shortcomings. I can usually find, load and play a track in less than 10 seconds!

I wasn't as happy with the 3000. I hope they've fixed it since it's introduction, but the test unit I got blew chunks. I could hardly believe it had the Cortex name on it!

Anyway, I hope that helps. Drop by and let us know which way you decided to go!
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Postby Joseph Ivy » Sun May 04, 2008 12:46 am

Good thread. I'm looking into controllers right now.
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Re: Anyone using USB media controllers? (Cortex, Denon, Numa

Postby Dj Sean » Wed May 07, 2008 5:25 pm

Although I've played around with Denon's HD2500, I decided to stick with a Apple laptop, CD decks as backups and a ipod just in case.

I feel I'm more than covered this way, but I do see some advantages to setups like the Denon and a hard drive plugged into it.

Streamlined hardware, focused on only the task of music, you just can't go wrong with that. As long as you have 1 or 2 backups in case that USB setup dies.

I think what it really comes down to is how well you plan your backup systems. So that your main system can be what fits you best.
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