EQs and Filter
Another compromise of the embedded iPad is the location of the EQs. Normally you’d get 4 knobs in a nice vertical row just above the line faders, but these have been moved to the top of the iDJ Pro. And for some reason, the gain controls have been totally left off.
Some people incorrectly use gain as a volume control. It’s not for that at all, and that’s what the big volume knobs are for. But instead of removing the functionality completely, it has been implemented in both an automatic and manual way. When you load up a track, djay analyses for BPM and levels, and if you want to, djay will automatically adjust the gain so that all your tracks are more or less at the same level. You can also manually adjust gain by swiping on the iPad’s meters – there’s a tiny gain control in there too.
Obviously the whole issue of audio is rather more complex than a simple auto gain control, but it’s a good start, especially for those looking for an undoubtedly less complex and more automatic experience.
Those volume knobs
As mentioned previously, due to space concerns, the iPad has seen the channel faders unceremoniously ditched. But there still needs to be volume control, so Numark have come up with a radical solution. Rather than cram a tiny fader into am awkward space, they made a full on feature out of a rotary volume control. They’re large, smooth and well illuminated. In use, you understand why mix purists swear by rotary controls.
It is a brave move, and I’m absolutely certain that the Numark R&D guys pushed around every possible Tetris-like permutation of controls to try to shoehorn proper faders in. But they do work, but you’ll just need to watch that you don’t knock them in use.
Djay offers BPM based auto-looping, that allows you to define loops up to 32 beats down to 1/16th beats, and be able to double and half as necessary with hardware controls. What I do like is the shift-enabled loop (or bounce as Algoriddim call it) roll. The loops aren’t saved however so this is very much an immediate on the fly feature. This is pretty standard fodder these days, but still really well implemented.
In line with djay, the Numark iDJ Pro offers 3 hot cues. Yeah I know this is peanuts compared to the likes of Traktor, but for the likely buyer of the iDJ Pro, it’s ample. It’s a simple press to define/shift press to delete, and the buttons are highly responsive and accurate too – perhaps a little too responsive as I found double hits cropping into my faster performances.
One small issue – if you have doubles loaded, cues you set on one deck don’t carry across to the other. They get saved to the audio file on the fly,
These fall into 2 main categories – temporary and permanent. The temporary effects are beautifully handled on the iPad, and legitimises the whole reason for embedded it into the unit. They are however pre-fader, but I didn’t expect anything different.
This isn’t any different to how djay already handles them – you get an XY pad that applies a hi/low pass filter, and one of 5 effects: Flanger, Phaser, Bit Crusher, Gate and Echo. Where you move your finger to depends on the amount of hi or low pass and the single parameter for the effect.
There are also what are known as Instant FX. Each does a specific and cool things based on the track’s BPM:
Absorb: BPM echo and low pass filter fade in and out
Drift: As above but with hi pass
Sway: 16 beat flanger
Crush: A consistent crush effect
Punch: a 1/8th loop + spindown+fadeout – music continues a la slip mode.
Twist: 1/8th beat echo plus reverse, again with slip mode.
The last 2 do switch off the loop you have running so be warned. There’s a lot of fun to be had using instant effects like drum pads. But be careful with punch – I found a bug that often makes the track restart if you hammer it repeatedly.
The permanent effects are the same as the XY but without the filter. They’re switched on and off with a button, and have an associated single parameter knob. Djay does a remarkable jobs of allowing you to combine the pad fx with the channel effects and still not choke.
The effects are however basic and of a decent enough quality to keep people happy. You cannot however apply effects to the mic or aux channel, but only because they don’t tun through the iPad. But overall, I’m very happy with the effects implementation.
Ins and Outs
As you might expect, the ins and outs were never going to look like the back of an Allen & Heath mixer. But you get enough to serve the basic needs of DJs. From an input perspective, the iDJ Pro offers a mic input with volume control as well as an RCA line level input with volume control. But as mentioned previously, you can’t apply effects or EQ to these channels.
The very useful part about these inputs is that they bypass the iPad completely. So in the extremely rare event of your iPad crashing, or perhaps in the more likely event of wanting to swap iPads, then you can still talk through the iDJ Pro, and plug in an external device to play through as well.
The outputs are simple enough too. There’s balanced XLRs, unbalanced RCAs plus the usual 1/4″ and mini jack headphone ports with volume and cue/master. One related note here is the ability of djay to record your sets internally, eliminating the need to have an external aux for recording.
All rather unremarkable, and does what it’s supposed to. I’m not bothered about the lack of booth on this as I doubt the iDJ will ever venture inside one, although Numark have intimated that this unit is turning the heads of some VIPs. We’ll just have to wait and see on that one.
The iPad is the pounding heart of the iDJ Pro, thus it needs to be embedded neatly inside it. And it does that perfectly, albeit with home button at the top so that the 30 pin connector is just a short cable. The problem is that you’re stuck with it inside whether you like it or not. There’s no way for it to sit upright like a laptop screen as the connector just doesn’t stretch that far.
Obviously, one of the biggest issues surrounding build a unit around any Apple unit is Apple’s natural product evolution. Thankfully the iPad’s changes have been minor enough to build into the iDJ Pro, so that some Velcro pads take up the slack in size difference between the generations. And as long as the iPad gets no bigger, then this unit should be compatible for a good while into the future.
And of course, Apple have just released the iPhone 5 with the new Lightning plug, which of course means that the next iPad and all mobile devices will come with it too. Fear not, because Numark have made sure that the back door of iDJ Pro will stay open to accommodate any adaptors that Apple might release.