REVIEW: Numark iDJ Pro iPad DJ Controller


Link: Numark – Price: $499/£310/€399

Introduction

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (26)

Laptop DJing has been possible for ages, but it just wasn’t tactile enough, thus controllers were invented to give the hands-on feel back. But then touch screens came along, and despite offering a greater degree of tactility, it’s still not moving a physical fader or twisting an actual knob. iPad DJing is probably more fun than pure laptop DJing, but it just needs… more.

But the great thing about mobile tech is that is can be grafted right into the belly of the beast, and generally hooked up via a single connector. Behold the next generation of DJing. Ooooh feel the hate. But wait, this is actually rather slick – stick around and I’ll tell you why.

In A Nutshell

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (25)

The Numark iDJ Pro is a new type of controller, one that sees Apple’s iPad (any of them) sit inside the unit and act as the brains. Running Algoriddim‘s djay software, you get a full 2 channel DJ experience, with all the usual tricks like loops and effects, all crammed into a neat go-anywhere cost-effective box. Everything is built-in with all the ins and outs that a target buyer is likely to need.

First Impressions

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (27)

Pure Numark. They’ve worked hard to establish a strong brand ID, and the iDJ Pro typifies it perfectly. From a quality perspective, the iDJ Pro is lightweight. From a first look, I had expected something a tad heavier, but it’s easily moveable (thanks to the finger recesses) and feels well above the asking price. The brushed metal faceplate gives it an air of quality, and having a glossy iPad sat squarely in the middle really does lift the perceived quality of an otherwise all plastic unit.

Control-wise, it shares a common DNA with other Numark controllers. Tall knobs, hard plastic buttons and 6″ jog wheels – it’s like a Mixtrack thrown up in the air and put back together again. But with a few bits missing. Like faders for example.

The buttons do have a fairly short travel, but they’re not designed to be used like MPC pads. One thing that does work well is the colour scheme and overall brightness and saturation of the LEDs. The Numark iDJ Pro is easy to use in a dark or light environment alike.

The single issue I have with quality it that the faceplate markings are screen-printed, and around the fader area have already started to come off.

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (23)

Layout wise, it’s like nothing else on the market, and strays a long way from established decades old standards. It does adopt Numark’s stance on symmetry, something that irks DJs, but equally is very easy to adjust to. But the area in the middle, that would traditionally be a place for the aforementioned faders and EQ knobs, is obviously reserved for the whole raison d’être of the iDJ Pro.

This has an obvious knock-on effect for the layout, and has seen some unusual control placement decisions being made. While the jog wheels, transport and loop features are in pretty standard positions, the channel EQs and volume controls have been moved to decidedly non-standard positions. The oddest bravest decision has been to ditch the channel faders completely and change them for large rotary volume controls at either end of the crossfader.


I totally understand this move  – logically putting faders and EQs at the side of the iPad screen would have made the iDJ Pro far too big for comfort. I can only imagine the agonising over where to put these essential controls. But rather than awkwardly cramming them into an ill-suited spot, Numark have instead made a great big feature out of them. Turntablists will weep, but this unit isn’t for them. I may have moved them to the other side of the platter, but then the logical flow of pitch controls would have been disrupted.

The one thing I would have done differently is the front lip. I’d have made it extend a little further so that the whole unit could be lifted up on its front edge and cleared the controls. Outside of that, it’s hard to fault the Numark iDJ Pro for the money.

Now, let’s break this all down in detail, hardware first.

Jog Wheels

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (22)

Given that the iPad being plonked in the middle does rather eat up control real estate, Numark have stuck with the same size and style wheels found in their other Mixtrack/Mixdeck controllers. They’re touch sensitive, meaning that pressing and letting go is met with an instant response. And the edges remain available for subtle pitch bends.

Spinbacks are really good too, but I found the jog wheel response to be a little wayward for accurate fast backcueing. It’s brilliant for simple to mid-level scratches, but releasing with even the slightest of pushes doesn’t give a clean release. This however is more of a cautionary note as I don’t expect turntablists to be ditching decks for an iDJ Pro.

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (21)

It’s a slightly odd sensation being able to use both the on-screen wheel as well as the physical one, and they can be used for obvious showboat DJing, or more usefully incorporating djay’s trademark 2 finger gate scratching. It’s a neat trick, and I sense that multi-touch could be put to great use for other jog wheel based fun too.

One thing to note – while the hand to audio response is instant, the screen display on the wheels lags behind by around 0.25 seconds. The waveform fares much better in this respect.

Overall, I feel that Numark have done incredibly well with the jog wheels given the price and the fact that it runs on an iPad.

Pitch Controls

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (20)

Because of the reduced space for controls, a compromise has been the pitch fader. Normally, I’d expect a 100mm one, but the iDJ Pro is furnished with a 60mm pitch fader. It does lack a detent but does have an LED to show zero. And alongside the aforementioned pitch bending on the jog wheel, there are also dedicated pitch bend buttons next to the transport buttons, that give a rather instant and gratifying ±50%.

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (19)

Djay offers ranges or 8, 10, 25, 50 and 75%, with a minimum resolution of around 0.12%. Some will struggle with such a large resolution, but on the whole the various controls give you enough to keep wayward BPMs in check. There’s always the nasty evil sync button of course, but even that doesn’t help with everything. God knows I’ve got enough original 4 to the floor House music that is all over the place even though it was made with a drum machine.

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  • DJ SPARK

    I’m waiting for the next generation of Ipad thing : hook any controller with integrated soundcard into an app that don’t need to mimic the hardware under my fingers. Just a GUI with collection and a good software…
    For now there isn’t many serious offer on this side.

    • http://www.mobiledjforums.com/ GroovinDJ

      I agree it would be nice to see an app that had a configurable display, so that when connected to a controller it could just be one huge music library browser.
      You don’t need decks and a mixer on screen when you’ve got the hardware.

      • Gábor

        … and this is what you can do with the upcoming version of DJ PLAYER.

        • http://www.facebook.com/darren.solomon.98 Darren Solomon

          Not if you like being limited to the ipads onboard small storage space for your music. Gabor, fix that and then call me!

          • Gábor

            We have no control over that you know yourself. :-)

            For most DJs the many thousands of tracks on a 64 GB model is more than enough. I understand if somebody uses a larger library (like wedding DJs), but that’s the minority.

            • http://www.mobiledjforums.com/ GroovinDJ

              Where are you getting this information that “most DJs” use under 64GB of songs, and larger libraries are “the minority”?
              My view is that a very large number of DJs (of all types) now use computers, with music libraries much larger than 64GB.
              Wedding DJs – and mobile DJs in general – are not a minority. There are probably many more mobile/wedding DJs than club DJs, because DJs of all ages are doing it, and because the % of people having parties for birthdays, weddings etc. is higher than the % of people who go clubbing.

              • Gábor

                We are running a company developing DJ gear and platform, and make a living from that. Certainly we always monitor the market, the DJs, their habits, etc..

                • WATTS

                  There is now a 128GB ipad so that should be more than enough storage space for most people.

                  Unfortunately Apple just released their slimmer iPad 5 so although it will still fit, it may have some tiny space on the left and right of the idj pro.
                  Not verified myself for sure but would love to know.

  • Shishdisma

    Isn’t it interesting how the previous (Or next previous?) iDJ unit was a standalone player, but now we have a controller with iPad support? I just can’t see the advantage of a unit + iPad over a purely integrated standalone unit. I guess only time will tell how this stacks up against guns-out standalones like that XDJ thing. I expect a full shootout article!

    • pete

      had the XDJ-Aero for review last Month, its tons more of a beast than the numark

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  • http://twitter.com/Djscottfrost Scott Frost

    I’m curious to know when the iPad 4 comes out, will this unit be useless due to the new dock connector? Or does it connect wireless?

    • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

      As I said the review, Apple are releasing adaptors and the back door stays open making it all fit just fine.

      • Louis

        Seems a shame that the back has to stay open to fit the adapter. Will wait for the refresh model next year now. As would rather have the whole unit closed than hanging open to house a £30 accessory

  • The_KLH

    No “nextlevelness” here? This seems to be a proof-of-concept sold as a version one product. I dunno. Is there anything that’s better than using a laptop or no computer?

    -KLH

  • Dj BAM

    There are down falls to this unit. The major one is the lack of storage the ipad holds. The one positive thing I can say is it is user friendly, ipad app has its issues that normal computer base controllers don’t have. all in all I would say if I had a ipad and a way to maximize storage and wanted to do small get togethers this is the unit to use. I love the rotatory knobs for mixing.

    • http://techjitsu.wordpress.com Atypical Blackman

      I really wish people would STOP the whole ‘storage’ moan and recognize the silliness of the argument. I have 40GB of music on my iPad right now; that is exactly 6,254 songs with a running time of 16 days, 5 hours and 29 minutes. I have everything I need for the football after-party I am doing Sunday night and the wedding I am doing the week after that. I also have everything I need for the two different mixtapes I am working on [lounge & hip-hop] with no less than 300 tracks in EACH genre to select from during the curation period. I am thoroughly prepared to rock any surprise event that should happen in the next 24hrs, but I can always switch it up to to transport music from my laptop should the need arise…

      • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

        I’m with you on this. I used to have to prepare crates, numbering no more than the hundreds. Now tens of thousands aren’t enough for some. I think people are going to have to wait a few years for 1Tb iPads.

        • http://www.mobiledjforums.com/ GroovinDJ

          It may be OK for DJs who play to a narrow age range of people or only one genre of music – club DJs etc – but when you’re playing general family parties and weddings the age range is much wider and the musical tastes varied. You need to cover maybe 6 decades of music and dozens of genres, and have enough tracks to give you a choice, to play a few in each “decade genre” and to meet requests. 6000 songs over 6 decades, that’s 1000 per decade so 100 songs per year. About 2 per week. How many songs come out each week? How many new entries are there in the chart each week?
          Break it down further into genres and you get even less of each. Let’s keep it simple and say there are only 5 genres. So that’s 20- songs per year from each genre. Say someone wants 80s rock. Could you do that gig with 20 songs? Yes, armed with prior knowledge you could strip down your iPad and only load up 80s music, but then what if they get tired of 80s and want you to play new stuff?

          • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

            Even though a 64Gb iPod can comfortably store say 16K tracks, I get that for some people, the iDJ Pro might not offer enough storage. I’m pretty sure though that the majority of potential users in the market for a £300 controller will not have the requirement to have every track made or ever will be made at their fingertips.

            The irony is that those DJs out playing private parties are most likely playing the same say 200 tracks, and the need to fulfil the just in case scenario is few and far between.

            It’s also worth bearing in mind that with djay’s links to the iTunes store, you could almost certainly download a request on the fly, especially if you have a 3G iPad.

            • http://www.mobiledjforums.com/ GroovinDJ

              Oh yeah of course there are the old Dave Doubledex cheesy DJs who play the same tunes at every gig, and for those guys it’s fine. Even the rack mount SD card players would suit. But we’re not all like that, and IMO in this day & age when even the punters have 1000s of tracks on their phones and MP3 players, it doesn’t go down well when they thrust the phone in your face and you have to admit that you don’t have it! I’ve got a 30th tonight where I had a list given to me & found I didn’t have a bunch of tracks. Another one in November where the guy is into rock, I found I didn’t have one of his fave artists, & only one song from another. And this from a 250GB collection built from over 30yrs of DJing.

          • http://techjitsu.wordpress.com Atypical Blackman

            You are bound and determined to say ‘not enough'; fine- the iDJ Pro is NOT FOR YOU. I have been DJing weddings, mitzvahs and corporate events for 20 years and I am more than satisfied with the iDJ Pro. Save your elite DJ moaning/bragging for people that are awed by your Dj version of a hipster. You don’t have to buy it, so why keep complaining about it?! If you are so afraid that you are going to miss having EVERY POSSIBLE SONG someone could request, then bring your laptop and a 2TB drive. Otherwise, get over it…

            • http://www.mobiledjforums.com/ GroovinDJ

              You misunderstand. I’m not “complaining” about the IDJ Pro.

  • http://www.facebook.com/korji.liddicut Korji Liddicut

    If the iDJ pro could connect to a computer I think that it would be good to use Touch OSC as a four channel mixer on the iPad so that you could have a four channel controller with a digital mixer screen in the middle.
    And maybe you could use the EQ knobs as the FX knobs instead…

  • Jameskelly

    I checked out the IDJ Pro along with the Vestax Spin 2 and Pioneer XDJ Aero at BPM this weekend. It left me thinking that we are heading for post-laptop era in DJ’ing pretty soon. I wrote an article about it on my blog, any thoughts would be much appreciated.

    http://minimaljames.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/ipad-dj-and-the-post-laptop-era-of-djing-thoughts-from-bpm-2012/

  • lexluminati

    They messed up by not having external harddrive support!! thats just DJing industry standard!!!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/kermie.j.rock Kermie J Rock

    It takes $9.99 to go and buy a chord from Best Buy to also use your laptop on your aux connection on the front of your IDJ Pro. I am killing the competition out here. I keep all of my new, relevant, clean, versions on my IPAD, while everything else is on my laptop. Where there is a will, there is a way. It is our duty to rock the house. Let’s get it DJ’s. Less excuses, more results!!! Hoorah!

    • Jason Hizer

      Yo, Kermie J! Please help! What is that Best Buy cord you’re talking about? I’ve been searching the internet and your mention here is the closest explanation I’ve found! I just can’t seem to find any details anywhere! P.S. Hope you’re still taking no shorts and mopping up the competition. Peace!

    • DJ Ecute

      bro wat the chord name so I can use my computer to dj through it ..I cant find a right chord to connet to my computer since I don’t hav the ipad yet to use

  • redjohn

    All you bozos talking about storage on the iPad
    Make a wise selection for the party you are Hosting and get a iPod Classic for requests. The IDJPRO has AUX inputs that allow youth connect any iPOD or iPhone or even a laptop, So cut the bullshit this is the future.
    The era of the Laptop is over and CDJ should have been gone along time ago.