REVIEW: Numark iDJ Pro iPad DJ Controller


Algoriddim’s djay

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (3)

The iDJ Pro runs the same version of djay as everyone else. But when it’s installed into the unit, it takes on a simpler appearance. As many of the touch screen functions are handed off to the hardware, djay’s screen is firstly rotated into portrait mode, but secondly reworked so that the decks sit side by side, and the XY effects pads are always visible. You still get everything you need on-screen, but if it can be done on the iDJ Pro hardware, then it is. The only things you can do on-screen and on the iDJ Pro are jog wheel movements, engaging loops and bringing up the library screen.

When in use with the iDJ Pro, djay is a different app altogether. Not having to cram a lot of touch controls into the screen space makes it a much more open experience. You can see from the screenshot how things are laid out – no need to explain the details just to pad out the review.

Some observations:

  • As pointed out previously, despite the immediacy of the hand to audio response, there is a lag between the jog wheel and on-screen display.
  • An option for vertical waveforms would be good
  • The cue points on the waveforms need to be bigger
  • Some sort of  option or toggle to hide the decks/effects panes to show the library would be very useful.

For me, it’s not so much about what it does, but what it doesn’t do. Djay for Mac has samples, as does the David Guetta edition of djay for iPhone. And the iPad screen is just begging for a bank of sample buttons, or at least some additional functionality on the hot cues. I’ve been told to be patient. ;)

So no real complaints at all – just suggestions.

Beyond djay

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (2)

At the time of writing, the iDJ Pro is designed for Algoriddim‘s djay app for iPad. But plugging in my iPhone 4s did get a positive response. It looks a bit weird sat loosely in the belly of the iDJ Pro, but it does work. You’ll have to dig inside djay to get to the smarter features, but everything appears to work including multi-channel audio.

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (1)

But of course, being the curious type that I am, I had to try out their vjay app as well. The big stumbling block here is the landscape orientation of the app. Algoriddim spent a lot of time trying to get the app to be as natural as possible, and the resulting workflow is landscape only. And while it does generally work, there’s no way to get the output to run to an external HDMI monitor either. I ran into issues with MIDI controllers and the HDMI connector when I reviewed vjay when it first came out. It’s not Algoriddim’s fault, and lays firmly at Apple’s doorstep. This is not in any way a black mark against the iDJ Pro – it is meant more as a cautionary tale for those who might steam in gung-ho, only to be disappointed. You have been warned.

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (8)

Rather more success was had with the new DJ Player beta. As previously seen on DJWORX, DJ Player has been considerably beefed up and will do all manner of new cool things, one of which is MIDI mapping. Because the iDJ Pro is a core MIDI device, it gets recognised by DJ Player and is immediately mappable by MIDI learn. I did very quickly managed to put together a very useable map (the jogs where a bit wild but that’s fixable). The one issue is that it’ll lead to a stiff neck as DJ Player, like vjay is landscape only.

Numark were very pleased and curious to hear more about DJ Player, so I’ve hooked them up. Expect things to develop in that area.

One area that I don’t expect to see any movement with is using a laptop with an iDJ Pro. Because of the 30 pin connector, and the lack of USB, there’s no real easy way to make the connection. And frankly, unless you’re a mad hacker who absolutely has to make this happen as a challenge, there are a world of other MIDI controllers out there more suited to the task.

So overall, it looks like DJ Player is likely to be a solid alternative to djay, but not right away. And to be honest, with the way the hardware and app are so perfectly optimised for each other, I see no real benefit in using anything else but djay at the moment.

Audio Routing

Now here is the biggest issue for many people, but one that is largely out of the hands of Numark and Algoriddim. The iPad or specifically iOS have little in the way of flexibility when it comes to stereo output. It basically has to be fudged and split to give mono output to master and cueing. It does work, and for most buyers and their crowd, a mono output will most probably be just fine. It’s switchable between split and unsplit, but without it you can’t cue in your headphones.

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (7)


But there is some hope on the horizon. Apple just unleashed iOS6 which has advanced audio routing, so that proper stereo output can be achieved. This will require updated apps and updated firmware in the iDJ Pro to make it a reality, which Numark has smartly already equipped the iDJ PRO to do. Now it’s possible to define master output and headphone output, all in stereo. The one small caveat at the time of writing – to achieve full stereo with the iDJ Pro, you can pull the iPad out a little and plug your headphones directly into the iPad. Numark assure me that this is a temporary situation.

In Use

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (6)

Given the  different interface, I was intrigued to see how my decades old workflow would adapt to something as different as the iDJ Pro. To this old DJ, the iDJ Pro is the very model of excellence and simplicity. Like any other workflow that uses digital audio, the success is in the preparation, so I would recommend taking time to sort your iTunes library out before putting it on the iPad, and then taking the time to properly analyse the tracks too. Djay is pretty solid at analysing the correct BPM, but it can be confused by more complex beats and get it quite wrong. And because djay lacks beat gridding, the overall BPM is only a guide. I threw some OG House at it, and even the holy sync button couldn’t make it work, probably down to differences in track BPM from section to section.

Outside of this, the iDJ Pro is a lot of fun. Once you get past the different layout, it all becomes second nature. It felt almost automatic, with little ancillary messing to do, giving you more time to just mix, scratch and experiment with effects. The whole experience is just so easy. It’s not a chore, and instead puts the fun into DJing. Don’t underestimate the iDJ Pro though – with some practice and general messing around, the iDJ Pro is quite a lot more capable that you might give it credit for.

The only thing I really wished for was that it was angled a little. Screens are generally supposed to looked at square on, and seeing as we stand back from our DJ gear a little, this makes the iPad screen angled. Obviously, if you angle the Numark iDJ Pro somehow, you’ll impact on the rest of the controls too.

The Future

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (4)

It’s a busy time for Apple, and the rumour mill is churning hard about a 7″ iPad. This will fit the iDJ Pro just fine, but I hope that it spawns an iDJ Pro mini to match. I found the hardware to feel a little too big for what it does. I’d love for a smaller messenger bag sized unit to make an appearance should the rumours be true.

What the iDJ Pro also ably demonstrates is the validity of an iPad as a laptop replacement. It’s important to remember that the iPad itself is a very powerful computer in its own right, and grafting it into a controller can only mean that other apps will be developed, along with other controllers that will suit a lot of specific workflows. I could imagine a Novation Launchpad, or Akai APC hooked up to an iPad now, and with the right clip launching app become a very mobile replacement for Live.

It’s worth touching on Android for a second too. The iDJ Pro is designed for iOS and Apple equipment. The connector is pure Apple and is unlikely to ever be made to work with any Android devices. It’s a fairly acknowledged fact that the Android platform is pretty poor when it comes to audio handling hence the lack of DJ apps for it. Time will tell if that situation will improve. But I really would be expecting Numark or anyone else for that matter to knock out Android compatible controllers of this kind in the foreseeable future.

Summing Up

Numark IDJ Pro iOS iPad DJ Controller (5)

It was bound to happen really. If you can cast your minds back to just over 2 years ago, when an alleged Numark render was leaked out – I asked Numark if it was anything to do with them, to which I got a mocking “hahaha… no – probably a student’s college work”, rapidly followed up with an intense “BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK OF IT?”. The writing was clearly on the wall all the way back then. But Numark have had to play a bit of a waiting game while Apple made their game plan a little clearer.

Numark tell me that they’ve worked very closely with Apple to make sure that the iDJ Pro wasn’t redundant before it was even released, hence the delay between first seeing it, and it actually hitting the shops. Indeed, Numark also claim that they’ve had a leading hand in helping Apple develop the pro audio side of iOS. It’s really good that Apple are listening to the needs of audio pros, and also helps that Algoriddim are quite safely in Apple’s circle of trust too.

Will the iDJ Pro be seen in a booth? Of course not. Will it however fit very sweetly into bedrooms, dorm rooms, living rooms, and function rooms? Yes indeedy. The iDJ Pro is the perfect way to turn your iPad into a smart yet fun DJ controller. It’s extremely cost-effective and performs in a way that the majority of DJ should be able to rock a good A to B set with some added flare and fun thrown in for good measure. Everything it does is at least good, and at times excellent. For the first unit of its kind, it has set quite a high standard.

Ratings

Build – really good for the price, but despite the looks, don’t be expecting NS6/7 levels of build. It’s all pretty solid, but still lightweight.

Features – it’s a hardware version of djay really. Nice and simple but all in a straightforward box. The iPad in the middle offers features that other hardware can only dream of.

Value for money – it costs the same as a decent controller, and has much the same features. It’s the trade-off between needing full DJ software with a load of controls, and a laptop to run it, as opposed to a simpler, sleeker and cheaper DJing experience.

The Bottom Line

The iDJ Pro is a very smart symbiosis of iPad and controller, that sets the bar very high indeed.

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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.