Numark Orbit wireless MIDI DJ controller hands-on (video)

NAMM is yet to open its doors fully, but we managed to sneak a hands-on with the freshly announced Orbit DJ controller from Numark at the press preview. As you can see, the wireless device looks like a game controller that crashed into a disco -- it's certainly distinctive. This is no accident, and the design is purposely built with quick and easy button access in mind, letting DJs (and any MIDI-based performers) step out from behind the DJ booth, and onto the stage. The portability of the Orbit is further amplified by the inclusion of a clip-mount on the rear, as well as lanyard-style strap hoops. It feels light yet solid, and the soft-touch finish means your hands won't get tired gripping this thing in the throws of a drum-pad solo. The name Orbit also evidently refers -- at least in part -- to the near-symmetrical design which lets you hold it either way with the same comfortable access to those brightly-lit, colorful controls. Those pads feel smooth, yet tactile -- and most importantly -- responsive. Tap past the break for more impressions.

That central dial you see in the middle is designed to be used as a multi-purpose knob, and is big enough for you to comfortably thumb it, while still reaching the side controls. There are four buttons which can be assigned as "virtual rotaries," and once selected, spin that wheel to modulate whatever you have it assigned to (filters, reverb amount etc.). The other set of four buttons let you expand those 16 pads out to a potential 64, so if you want one bank for controlling lights, one for sample triggering, and another for hot-cues, you can do this all from the one small device. It's not just the external controls that make this interesting, the internal two-axis accelerometer, which can be assigned to parameters of choice, will definitely add a new dimension to what's possible. Sadly we weren't able to try this out, but already we're thinking of some interesting uses. There's a micro-USB port on one side for charging and tethered use. We only had a short amount of time with the Orbit, but already we could see its potential for enhancing performance. It's not meant to replace anything in your existing set-up, rather to enhance it, and given the flexibility of MIDI, this could mean a whole host of interesting uses. The crowd of folk waiting to get a closer look behind us certainly showed that it's piquing people's interest. Set to be released in spring for a reasonable $100, this looks like a promising start to 2013 for Numark. Check the video tour below for more.

Billy Steele contributed to this report.