The Total Control passed all my basic tests for usability and stability, so it was time to really get geeky and nitpick the machine. While using Cue, the bottom crossfader controls both the audio and the video playing. As a VJ, I often want to have one video playing and bring in the audio of another clip without changing the video over. I wondered if there was anyway to change it, so I contacted customer support. As I have learned over the years, the response of customer support can usually measure the quality of a product (see M-audio review). I called the Numark phone number and was quite impressed by the quick response - less than 5 minutes on hold to get to a tech person. I explained the problem and the tech explained to me how to change the preference in Cue so that the controller is seen as a Midi Controller rather than a Total Control. By doing this, you can then assign each button and slider to do what you want. It took about 20 minutes, but I was quickly able to assign each button, knob, and dial a new feature and voila- I had the Total Control acting the way I wanted.
After playing with the Total Control for a couple of days, it was time to test how the Total control works in a real life club situation. I brought the Total Control with me on video and music DJ gigs for about three weeks. The TC performed solidly and reliably the entire time, and we are talking six hour nightly shifts, not quick one hour guest spots. A machine that can handle that kind of abuse is pretty solid.
There are only three critiques that I could find. First, it would be even better if the soundcard was included as part of the controller - preventing the need to carry an extra piece of gear. (Note: Numark has a seperate soundcard called the DJ I/O which they recommend to use with the Total Control) Second, the pitch control is absolute rather than relative, i.e. if a track is synced down 3% using the sync button, when the pitch slider (starting at 0) is moved, it reacts as if it's starting at 0% rather than 3%. So if a 130 bpm track is synced down to 127 bpm, when you use the pitch slider it goes up to 131 bpm causing a noticeable jump. Third, it would be better to be able to modify the default settings, i.e. change what one slider does, rather than having to remap the entire device. This however is a minor quibble as the basic default settings will satiate a majority of the target users.
The Total Control is essential to any laptop DJ looking for a way to control their music files like they would CDs with a DJ CD player. Compressing the controls for both track and volume manipulation onto one controller is both logical and liberating. Rather than having one hand on the CD player and the other hand on the mixer, both of your hands can be one unit with all the knobs you need right in front of you. As a MIDI controller, the Total Control can be set up to control any music software - so you are not limited to Traktor and Cue. Though when you factor in the included software, Traktor LE and Cue LE, the Total Control is a bargain at its list price and highly recommended. Just as Technics and Pioneer are considered by many to be the industry standard respectively for DJ turntables and CD/DVD players, I predict that with the Total Control, Numark will become the industry standard for laptop DJs.
What is it: a hardware controller with bonus software for DJing/VJing
Who is it for: DJs/VJs who want to play computer music files with complete control of playback
How long does it take to set up: about 20 minutes
What is required for its use: a PC or MAC
Difficulty level: 3/5 (1 is easy, 5 is difficult)
Are there any limitations of the included software: Traktor LE is limited to two decks and 4 beat loops. The full version of Traktor allows for four decks, more looping options, and more beatmatching control. Traktor LE is fully functional and can be used in the club. The only annoyance is a reminder to buy the full version whenever you open or close the program. No limitations were found with the Cue software.