With the iPod's accessory compatibility always in flux from year to year, Numark was smart to diversify the number of ways to get audio in and out of the iDJ2. Aside from plugging your iPod into the iDJ2's dock (Classic, Nano, and 5G iPods are supported), you can also load audio from a generic USB drive or route external audio through the dual-line and phono inputs located on the back. The iDJ2's outputs are also diversified, with balanced XLR and RCA outputs used for the main mix, a separate RCA-recording output, and an S-Video output for playing iPod video content on an external display.
Whether you're connected to an iPod or a USB drive (or both), all your MP3, WAV, or unprotected AAC music files get displayed on the iDJ2's prominent color screen. A decremented rubber knob beneath the screen lets you browse your music by track, album, artist, genre, BPM, year, playlist, or folder tree. Combined with a USB keyboard (not included), a search option allows you to quickly locate songs in your collection, making requests a breeze. Once you've found a track to play, you can transfer it to either of the two decks using the illuminated buttons below the screen.
After loading your songs, playing and mixing between songs on the iDJ2 is a mostly DJ 101 affair. You have dedicated controls for pitch, EQ, channel volume, crossfade, play, pause, and cue, as well as LED-lit volume meters on each side of the screen for keeping song levels consistent. Headphone controls on the front edge of the iDJ2 have independent tone and gain controls, a cue mix knob for previewing each of the two decks, and a switch that juggles between the program and prefader mix.
At first glance, there's nothing surprising about mixing with the iDJ2, however, Numark did throw in a few neat tricks. For instance, the pitch-adjustment controls include a key lock feature and can be switched between four different modes: 6 percent; 12 percent; 25 percent; and awesome 100 percent mode that can slow playback down to a full stop. The iDJ2 also includes a tap-tempo feature for quickly matching track BPMs between decks, and an LED sync grid above the crossfader, which offers a visual cue for the downbeat for each song. Efficient features, such as an on-the-fly DJ-crate playlist and automatic track loading, help eliminate tedious searching and loading of music.
The Numark iDJ2 isn't just a fun iPod accessory--it's one of the most impressive digital-DJ solutions we've seen in the $500 range. You don't get the endless tweaking and deep control offered by a laptop-based rig, but you also don't get the sound-card hassles and inherent unpredictability of a piecemeal computer-DJ setup. Think of the iDJ2 as a tidy, lean, and well-conceived DJ system that happens to have iPod support.
Sonically, the iDJ2 fared just as well as a laptop-based DJ rig with a professional-outboard soundcard, but don't expect it to hold up to the luxury of an Allen & Heath analog mixing deck. The three-band EQ for each deck was adequate, and didn't introduce any noticeable distortion or noise into the mix. We wish Numark had included an effects section of filters, flangers, and delays, or at least thought to add an effects-loop output for external effects--but it's not a deal-breaker.
In all, we think the Numark iDJ2 is a fantastic solution for working DJs who need something light and efficient to take out to weddings, proms, or events that typically call for deep and predictable catalogs of music and little in the way of flashy DJ skills. It's also a worthy system for amateur DJs looking for a professional, yet headache-free system.