PERFECT LOOPS > The CDX utilizes Numark''s Beatkeeper technology, which analyzes the bpm of the incoming audio. This feature gives users the ability to quickly create and drop perfect, beat-matched loops.
Although CD players for DJs have been around since the 1990s, they have faced considerable opposition from spinners throughout the years, mainly because they didn't offer the tactile feel and control of a conventional turntable. Even up until the latter part of the decade, many vinyl aficionados resisted the advantages that CDs offered. It wasn't until CD burners and software became widely available that the digital format really started to take off, propelled further by the dawn of CD players with touch-sensitive jog wheels or platters.
Face it: CDs and MP3 files offer irrefutable advantages to vinyl records, the most obvious of which is the ability to store a massive collection of music in a book of CDs or on a hard drive instead of having to lug around heavy crates of records. Despite all of the technological advancements, a totally familiar and inexpensive interface for playing CDs like vinyl had yet to be brought to market. Stanton's FinalScratch 2 and Rane/Serato's Scratch Live require fairly powerful computers, making it financially out of reach for many, and although touch-sensitive and motorized CD platters come close, they're just not the same. Enter the Numark CDX.
TAKE A SPIN
Cleverly combining the electronics of a CD player with the mechanics of a traditional turntable, the Numark CDX allows DJs to play, control and scratch CDs with an actual piece of 12-inch vinyl on a direct-drive platter while still offering the digital features that CD DJs have become accustomed to. Similar in size and weight to a professional turntable, the CDX is styled after Numark's flagship TTX turntable, using a direct-drive motor that provides a whopping 5.0 kg of torque for ultraquick startups. But how does it do it? Does a laser detect the motion of the record? Does it have a trackball under the hood somewhere? Neither of these is correct. The heart of the CDX is the motor and spindle. The unit responds to the motion of the record via the spindle itself and to any force applied to the platter.
After aligning the platter, the cap and the vinyl record and screwing on the spindle, the CDX is ready to go. You can even use your own vinyl record by drilling three alignment holes into the label with the included template. Connections — located around the back and bottom of the unit in an angled area that's hidden when the unit is placed flat — include RCA line outputs, digital S/PDIF output, relay play and remote connections, MIDI In and Out, grounded AC power and a switch for operating the unit in 115 or 230V. Solid rubber feet and plenty of vents to prevent overheating are located on the bottom, and the unit has a sturdy feel at 22 pounds and sharp looks with its dark-gray paint job and silver controls.
The front of the unit houses the slot-loading CD transport that supports audio CDs, CD-Rs (for MP3 discs) and CD-RWs. The platter is right in front, with most of the controls logically placed toward the rear of the unit. Large start/stop buttons are placed in both front corners, with a brake adjustment dial on the left and a startup adjustment dial on the right, allowing for a variety of start/stop settings from immediate all the way through to a slow crawl. A large and bright VFD (vacuum fluorescent display) shows bpm, time, status and menu options in a cool blue light on a black background that's easy on the eyes. Five buttons just above offer the main set of controls for the CDX. The Display button toggles between elapsed time, track time remaining and total time remaining with a secondary function as a back button when using menu options. Store/Recall is used to save cue points. The Menu button accesses additional options for the CDX — for instance, a sequence of tracks can be programmed; relay play between two units can be toggled on or off; interlock mode can be activated (which synchronizes the beats of two connected units); the default speed of the platter can be set to either 33 or 45 rpm to suit your preference; dead space at the end of tracks (gaps) can be eliminated (a great idea when you're playing a CD from beginning to end); and reverse mode can be toggled between digital or platter-dependent modes. In addition, the Utility submenu controls sleep mode, remote type operation for fader start, digital output select, calibration and a full reset. The Single button switches between single play or continuous play modes, and the Pitch button toggles the unit between ±6, ±12, ±25 and ±100 percent. The full-size pitch slider is to the right, and just below the screen is a large rotary encoder knob; use it to select tracks and then push it in to confirm selections.
The top center of the CDX contains controls for the many loop and cue functions. Although similar to the looping functions of most CD decks, the CDX's built-in Beatkeeper technology accurately detects the bpm of a track and uses this information to automatically make perfect loops, or Smart Loops. Users can make loop points on the fly or by pausing or holding the record at the desired location and pressing the appropriate button. The Reloop button retriggers the loop from the in point.
Now, as anyone who's tried to create a precise loops knows, hitting the in and out points at just the right moment can be quite tricky, even with a lot of practice. With Smart Loops engaged, the timing of your loop points is automatically adjusted to fit within the detected bpm, meaning that your timing can be a little bit off, and the CDX will interpolate the correct timing for you — most excellent! The Trim button allows for further precision by letting you edit the loop points manually. Furthermore, the entire length of the loop can be retained but shifted forward or back in the timeline. In addition, you can instantly adjust the length of the loop in incremental units without having to redo the loop points. For example, say you grab a one-measure (four-count) loop. By using the two Shift buttons, you can shorten the size of the loop to two counts or one count, as well as two or four measures. Looping is also facilitated by a four LED bar graph and a Tap button. The red lights mark the beat location with the measure, and you can reset the start of the measure by hitting the Tap button, which you can also use to manually input bpm. These looping features alone make the CDX stand out from the competition.
WET OR DRY
The Numark CDX also includes built-in DSP effects such as Sonar, Slide, Echo, Filter, Chop, Auto-Pan and Auto-Decimation. These are activated either by pressing a dedicated button for the desired effect or by holding a button to access an additional effect. A dedicated and sizable jog wheel is used to modify certain parameters of the effects, as well. Sonar is similar to a flange or phase effect. Normally, the depth of this effect will return to zero when it is turned on and off, but you can bypass this by holding down the Sonar button for a couple of seconds. Slide is essentially a pitch shifter, allowing you to smoothly change the key, or tone, of the music without altering its speed. The Echo effect works with the following time divisions: 64th, 32nd, 16th, eighth, quarter, half and whole (one-measure) notes; you can also use the effect with negative time values by turning the wheel counterclockwise for a pre-Echo. Curiously, however, the Echo effect doesn't continue when the platter is stopped.
The Auto Decimation effect reduces the bit rate of the music, creating increasing levels of distortion, and is accessible by holding down the Echo button for two seconds. You can dial in mild distortion or crush it to the point of sounding like something coming from an Atari 2600. The Filter can work in either isolation (bandpass) or kill (band reject) mode, and the frequency can be dialed up or down with the jog wheel. When you get to either end of the frequency spectrum, it will continue from the other extreme. Chop works like a transformer, breaking up the music in specific intervals with the same time divisions used in the Echo effects. The jog wheel is also used as a search function — just hit the Search button, and you can quickly scan through a track to find the desired location. The wheel has just the right amount of resistance, letting you flick the wheel for quick scans.
One of the coolest features of the CDX is the Scratch Mode button, which allows you to select among four different ways in which the platter or record controls the sound. Scratch Mode makes the CDX respond just like a traditional turntable, with all directional movements being heard. Scratch + FWD mode plays only forward motions, eliminating the sound of any backward (counterclockwise) motions. Scratch + Cue returns playback to the last set cue point every time the record is grabbed or stopped, and Scratch + Cue + FWD returns playback to the last cue point and plays only forward motions. This is a nice set of features for the scratch DJ and turntablist, as it facilitates certain tricks, especially beat juggling. Just next to the Scratch button is a Reverse switch that operates in one of two ways: Reverse changes the direction of the physical platter until it's released (you can adjust sensitivity through the menu options), and Bleep immediately reverses the direction of playback using the buffer while the platter maintains forward motion. Also, the motor can be turned off without affecting playback to prevent accidental stoppage of playback, and there's a dedicated button to toggle between 33 and 45 rpm.
Overall, the Numark CDX feels great. The vinyl and platter response is extremely accurate, and best of all, you can be as rough as you want without a needle coming out of a groove! The Smart Loop functions and built-in effects are a major plus, and the ability to play MP3 data discs is an added bonus. Although the pitch-control resolution only goes down to 0.1 percent (which is pretty standard anyway), this is by far the best emulation of a vinyl turntable by a CD player. If a turntable and a CD player had a baby, it would be the CDX.
CDX > $1,199
Pros: Amazing response and feel. Flexible, easy, perfect looping with Smart Loops and Beatkeeper. Built-in DSP effects. Slot loading. Versatile scratch modes. Separate jog wheel for searching and effects control. MP3-data-CD support. More features implemented in future software upgrades.
Cons: Maximum pitch control resolution only 0.1 percent.