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A peripheral to beat the band
How did Mixman cram so much into the DM2? By taking advantage of the most powerful music tool in the history of the world: the PC. The DM2 functions like a keyboard or a mouse. There are hardly any electronics within the console itself, just movable parts that send a signal over a USB cable to your computer, where the processing, sound storage, and audio playback occur. The console itself houses two round decks, which control eight samples apiece and are bordered by two rubberized belts for scratching, as well as a few other DJ tools. Essentially, the DM2 is a hardware version of the Mixman Studio software. Trying to DJ with a mouse on a screen is like DJing underwater with one finger, so the DM2 is a welcome change that turns your computer into a lean, mean, electronic music machine.
In order to provide users with isolated tracks from songs, Mixman made licensing deals with artists of varying degrees of fame. When you buy the DM2, you get 30 songs, each split into 16 different tracks (one for each sample button on the console). You can DJ with any of the samples from those songs by pressing the Sample buttons. You can easily scratch any sample or set it to repeat. It takes just minutes to learn how to cross-fade between the sample decks, solo samples, or combinations of samples, and to apply any of the 27 effects to the overall mix.
Our only complaint with the interface is that, initially, it's hard to find the onscreen master volume control, which you really need to locate since the program resets your computer's volume level every time you run it. Incidentally, you can find the control by clicking the speaker icon above the tempo display.
Yes, it can play your own samples
It's great that Mixman bundled the DM2 with these 30 songs because you can get started right away. (Mixman has more songs broken into samples for sale on its Web site.) But more advanced DJs will want to import their own samples. The easiest way to load a sample is to plug a computer microphone in to your sound card's microphone jack and record your voice or another sound into the program. Then you can play, scratch, and add effects to your voice alongside the other samples in the mix. But you can also assign any uncompressed WAV file on your computer to any of the 16 sample buttons on the console. Even better, you can use the Mixman StudioXPro (click the Studio Pro tab) software to quantize your samples and import them into the DM2 so that they'll all play at the same beat. The ability to import these samples makes the DM2 something that even professional DJs might like. We asked renowned DJ Lesser if there was anything missing from the DM2, and he said he'd probably be able to incorporate the device into his setup. However, he did mention that the DM2 would be even more useful if it had MIDI and VST plug-in support.
Naturally, you can export your mixes at CD quality, which is great if you want to make an MP3, a CD, or import the mix as a track into your digital multitracking software.
At $80, the Mixman DM2 is an extraordinary value. Everyone at CNET had to play with the unit we had, so we think even nonmusical people will get a kick out of it. And if you want to get started in the DJ world, the DM2 seems like the logical first step.