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Gemini FirstMix for budding DJs (hands-on)

The Gemini FirstMix is a $99 digital DJ system aimed at first-time DJs. It includes computer software Mac/PC and a USB hardware controller.

Gemini FirstMix
The Gemini FirstMix is a baby step into the DJ world. Donald Bell/CNET

Young and broke. That pretty much sums up the DJ chapter in my life. Aside from the handful of celebrity DJs out there, most of us start out with only a few bucks, a love of music, and the goal of someday playing an unforgettable party.

It is with these humble roots in mind that Gemini created the FirstMix. A combination of USB hardware and cross-platform software, the $99 FirstMix system gives newbies an inexpensive entry point into DJ stardom.

As DJ rigs go, there isn't much to it. The hardware is a plastic slab with a toy-like feel, a crossfader, some knobs, and two jog wheel controls dressed up like little virtual turntables. The overall feel is about what you'd expect for the price. The sensitivity and responsiveness of the controls is impressive, though.

A single attached USB cable sticks out from the back, and you can connect it to either a Mac or PC. There are no audio outputs or inputs, just a USB plug for sending MIDI control data to the software (or any MIDI-capable program).

On the software end, you get a basic version of MixVibes Cross. The music library pulls in your iTunes collection or lets you browse folders manually. Compatible formats include AAC, AIFF, WAV, MP3, FLAC, and OGG. Waveforms of each track appear at the top of the screen, allowing you to eyeball intros and breakdowns, and giving you a general sense of the BPM. You'll also find some useful controls for EQ, effects, and beat synchronization, including automatic beat matching.

Once you've practiced your mix, you can record it into the software and export it as a WAV or MP3. After that, all you need is a worshipful audience of DJ fanatics and you're home free.