When Numark unveiled the first iDJ iPod mixer in 2005, the half-baked product required two iPods, and lacked many essential features. After three years back at the drawing board, Numark's iDJ2 ($599 retail, $499 street) finally makes good on the promise of a professional iPod DJ mixer.
Compared with the hodgepodge of laptops, CDJ decks, mixers, and retrofitted turntables today's digital DJs are saddled with, the iDJ2's biggest selling point may be the neatness of its all-in-one system. Numark has managed to fit a two-channel mixer, music library, and DJ control surface all into a space measuring 16-inches wide by 12-inches deep by 3-inches high (including knobs).
The face of the iDJ2 is where all the fun happens. The centerpiece of the system is a slightly angled 4.25-inch color screen used to select songs and view playback status. An adjustable iPod dock above the screen uses a deep well in an attempt to keep your iPod out of harm's way. To the right and left of the screen are an identical pair of mixer controls, including knobs, buttons, faders, and jog wheels.
Like most traditional DJ mixers, all of the Numark iDJ2's audio connections are on the top edge of the console, with the exception of headphone and microphone inputs, which are conveniently located on the edge facing you. The bottom and sides of the iDJ2 are bare.
Overall, we're impressed by the iDJ2's ergonomic layout and attractive onscreen user interface, however, the all-plastic construction does feel flimsy compared to traditional analog DJ mixers.
The Numark iDJ2's plastic design and iPod dock may attract a few chuckles from doubtful DJs, but its useful and professional features are nothing to laugh about.
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.