Link: Numark – Price: $499/£310/€399
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%.
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.