NAMM saw Numark proudly puff out their chest and show off their iPad enabled djay driven iDJ Pro unit. And like many previous new Numark toys, the perspex force field was enabled. But at Musikmesse, the shields were down and we got to maul the unit.
As we’ve stated previously, the touch screen devices captured the attention of DJs, because like any other application, it feel really cool to pick up a tablet and wave your finger around – but it lacks real tactile feedback. So like laptops before them, this particular technology is evolving in much the same way, where physical controllers like the iDJ Pro are appearing that simply use the iPad as a brain.
In this particular case however, there is real touch based interactivity via the pad fx, rather than gratuitous touch features that serve no purpose. Yes you can just use the iPad for a lot of the features, but the whole point is to have the physical feel, and the iDJ Pro does just that. but there is also shift button functionality to replicate
When I saw it at NAMM, I couldn’t help but be struck by the coolness of the unit, but there was still part of me that was still slightly reticent about really buying into it. But now having used the iDJ Pro, I’m convinced. The responsiveness is great – there’s a tiny degree of lag in the jogwheels, but it really is small, but every other control is bang on. In my experience, djay hasn’t always been great on defining cue points at the exact time you press them, but with iDJ Pro, they define and work at the exact time you press the button. The only lag I can see is with the the screen update responding to the hand movement, but it is just on screen.
There are still things I don’t like, namely the position of the channel knobs. Functionally, there nothing like a smooth running knob for the ultimate in control. But they get right in the way and just feel so out of place. I imagine that you’d get used to it though, and is perhaps an observation based on me being a more fader based DJ than anything else.
And while it’s easy to get carried away with the coolness, we cannot ignore the thorny issue of audio handling. Yes the iDJ Pro has all manner of inputs and outputs, but it’s hard to look past the real lack of stereo audio outputs. You’re still likely to get great audio brilliance, but for DJs it’ll be a matter of splitting the single stereo audio output into mono for headphone and
The main thing that struck me was how much I had to stand over the iDJ Pro to make the best use of the screen. I feel that the lack of controls, combined with the glare problems of using an glossy screen means that the iDJ Pro need an angling facility. I chatted with Numark people who were surprised at me wanting as much as a 15° angle option on it. As they quite rightly pointed out, Pioneer’s Ergo has the same thing and it’s actually more useable. This is nothing new of course – consoles of all sorts have been angled for years. They took the observation seriously so hopefully that’ll appear on the final unit.
So having played with, I’m now much happier. I feel this is a product more for iPad owners who want to DJ, rather than a start from scratch DJ. From a longer term perspective, this properly heralds the dawn of the next age of digital DJing, where tablets become integral parts of controllers. We can only hope that Apple give pro audio manufacturers a little more to play with as far as audio output goes.