Numark's dive into the digital turntable world is nothing new, and after the recent acquisition of Denon by Numark's parent compay Inmusic (who also owns Akai and Alesis among others), the stage is set for some club competitors. While we aren't going to be showcasing the heavy hitters from Numark today, we do have the beginner's version that's been out for a while; the iDJ Live II. Featuring two decks and a crossfader, some EQ controls and proper cue/play functions, you're getting more than enough to start your DJ hobby for only $100. Pair that up with their Electrowave Headphones that we'll be talking about briefly here as well and you're ready to go.
Looking first at the USB powered mini turntable & mixer rig, what's most intriguing to us is the portability and successful integration with mobile devices. Just plug the cable into an iPhone and load up the app and you can be scratching and mixing in no time. While this is certainly not a high end performance controller it can hold its own when coming to learning the basics, and the decks themselves feel up to the challenge. The standard free app is enough to get you going while the few dollars you could pay for the full app allow you to access your full library. Both versions provide functions such as looping and effects that are accessible directly from your touchscreen phone. This alone adds a huge functionality to the setup as x/y effect pads give beginners an easy way to learn how to apply effects properly.
CUT TO THE CHASE
The good: Basic EQ functions provide the bare minimum you need to get your DJ career started, and the cue/play buttons respond very well in real time.
The bad: No mid EQ and dedicated ins and outs on the Numark iDJ Live II means you need at least an iPhone to run it, but this makes sense with the budget
The deal breaker: Portability and ease of use are two important aspects of any controller but they crucial here, as clearly this is meant to be for fun and practice when your away from the studio or booth.
BEHIND THE SCENES
A two channel mixer with individual deck control has been the basis for any DJ setup since the art forms inception and Numark has taken the opportunity as a major manufacturer to expose a whole new generation to mixing, giving the less wealthy a chance to try it out on a small system. At only $100 the iDJ Live II is by no means attempting to replace a CDJ2000 setup but if you're looking to make your break in a club, learning the standards of cueing are as important as landing the gigs themselves. When it comes down to it, a simple EQ setup is really all you need, and if you're able to separate the low frequencies from the high you can accomplish quite a bit. To add to that, as we said the iPhone app has a solid set of looping and effects features that you can use to add some flare to the mix.
The unit itself is plastic and quite light so you won't have to worry about it weighing down your camping bag should you be like me and need your music everywhere. The structure for all faders and knobs is metal and should hold up to some tear, while rubber feet on the bottom help to keep the unit in place so while your making the most of the quality decks you don't have to worry about the unit sliding around. Speaking of the decks themselves, they actually have surprisingly great response especially when used within the native iPhone app, and the scratching sounds more realistic than you would imagine. The fact that the decks have dual functionality at the switch of a button is a nice feature meaning you can scratch or seek position on them with ease.
The play, play/cue buttons and sync buttons at the bottom of the mixing centre are what make this controller worth it alone. Learning the method behind cueing up a track and using a deck to seek position, set a cue etc, is what DJing with two turntables is about no matter what setup your using. If you can master it on a 100$ rig, chances are you can apply the same techniques with a little practice to the more sophisticated setups that most clubs will provide.
Moving our focus now to the recommended accompanying headphones that Numark has been getting some traction with, the Electrowaves sport a bright white exterior and coming in at well under $150 your getting a premium sound design without breaking the bank. They feature 50mm drivers in each rear cup to provide the accurate bass frequencies you'll need in a club setting and because they have a detachable cable, you don't need to worry about getting them caught and ripping out a wire. While the looks may only be for some, the bulkiness and extra padding makes for a comfortable extended wear.
In the box comes two detachable leads, one 1/4" and another 1/8" as well as a leather travelling case. The main intent of the Electrowave was to be a DJ ready headphone and on loudness and bass tone they exceed our expectations. While the exterior might say beginner, they pack the punch where they need to so you can beat match accurately, and when combined with the iDJ Live II, you've got a nice little setup to get your ears trained and ready for the big leagues. Admittedly the headphones actually are much more comfortable that some DJ headphones we've tried as the plush ear cups and subtle squeezing on the headband don't affect you much.