Hands-On Review:Numark CDN-88

There are two kinds of DJs: the scratchers and the mixers. The scratchers play turntables, creating weird sounds, and functioning as part of a band’s rhythm section. The club mixers are the party kings, blending recorded music and grooves into seamless musical tapestries that keep the energy up and dance floors filled.


Now a new CD player from Numark, the CDN-88, is blurring the distinction between the turntablist and the club mixer. It provides sophisticated beatmatching and cueing for seamless syncing from one song to the next as needed for club mixing. It also lets you scratch . . . manipulate CDs as if they were vinyl records on a turntable. It also allows the DJ to reshape the music with a variety of digital effects.

Hook a CDN-88 up to even a fairly basic crossfading mixer and you have a sophisticated DJ rig housed in just two pieces of gear. In addition to performing turntable effects ? stutter starts, dead stops, pitch bends, and scratches ? it also performs digital effects such as looping, phasing, chopping, and frequency isolations. In short, it lets you do things that normally would require a multi-component rig ? all with just a CD player and mixer.

Hand-friendly Controls
Most functions on the CDN-88 are button-activated, with the buttons located for easy one-hand operation of each side. LEDs keep you informed of each button’s status. Faders are provided for changing the tempo, and jog wheels are the main controls for manipulating effects. These jogs are fairly large and have finger holes (depressions) around the rim, like a rotary phone dial, to give you fingertip control. Also, the jog wheels offer almost no resistance when you turn them. They can actually be spun with the flick of the finger. For effects you only have to move the wheel short distances, but for dialing forward or back to locate precise frames, spinning the dial is helpful.

The Beatkeeper
Perhaps the 88’s most advanced feature is its Beatkeeper technology. It gives you three graphs, two that show the beat pattern and speed of both decks, and a center graph that compares the two sides and shows whether they are in sync or not. Using the beat sync button you can recalibrate the BPMs or reset the downbeats on either player. By hitting the Interlock button, you can automatically match both sides and lock the downbeats together. The Beatkeeper also functions along with the looping controls, keeping loops precisely in time with the ongoing beat of the music.

CD Scratching
Select effect number one, "Livescratch." Hit the effect active button, then start moving the jog wheel as if you were moving a vinyl disc. What you get is a very realistic scratch sound. The distance you move the wheel is relatively similar to moving a record to get the same effect. The free movement of the wheel gives you the feel of a good slipmat. If you want to power down and power up, just hit the hold effect and use the jog wheel. Turn it back to power down, forward to power up. If you move it back and forth, it’s like scratching with the turntable motor.

Other Effects
Beside the Scratch and Scratch hold, the CDN-88 gives you several other great effects. The "Phase" effect is a very smooth and very pronounced broad-sweep phase shifting effect. You can make it sweep up or down by moving the wheel forward or back. How far depends on how far you turn the wheel. When you stop the wheel, the sweep changes direction and returns to its original level. Another variation of this effect is the "Verb" which adds reverb to the phase.

The "Slide" effect lets you slide downward or upward smoothly through keys without changing tempo. There’s also a Chop effect, which knifes up the track into broken segments. You can vary the timing of these chops with the jog wheel, or use it in conjunction with the Beatkeeper so the chops are automatically in time with the groove of the music.

Loop Play
The CDN-88 has as set of four different loops, two on each side. Push one button to start a loop, push another to end it, then play the loop by tapping a third button. Hit this button repeatedly, and it creates a stutter start.

It’s cool.
The CDN-88 has other functions and features I haven’t touched on: 48-second buffer memory, cueing, fader start, dead space elimination, pitch bending, play programming, etc. I’ve covered the main features to give you an idea of how versatile and powerful it is. And though it is easy to use, the CDN-88 doesn’t do away with the DJ. You still have to know what to do and when. And you can spend a lot of time developing your skills on the CDN-88. It lets you work all kinds of DJ magic and, most importantly, have a lot of fun doing it.

Features & Specs

  • Two front-loading decks
  • Remote controller panel
  • Hand-friendly jog wheels
  • Pitch lock (at 6, 12, 25, and 100%)
  • Beatkeeper with BPM indicator and auto interlock mode
  • Two loops per side with stutter start
  • Effects bank including live scratch, scratch hold, phase, verb phase, slide, chop, and reverse.
  • Anti-shock buffer memory (48 seconds)
  • Cueing (3 cue points)
  • 8X oversampling rate
  • Analog (RCA) and digital output (S/PDIF)