Back in 2008, a nifty little box of tricks elbowed its way onto the market -- the Tonium Pacemaker. A gadget about the size of an OG PSP, with a complete DJ set-up hidden inside. It was a brave idea, and one that was fondly received. A few years down the line, mixed with a sprinkling of business politics, and sadly the Pacemaker's time on stage would come to an end. Like all good performances though, the show wasn't completely over. In true musical fashion its back for an encore, reinvented and more importantly -- right now at least -- in our hands. We spent sometime with the reincarnated Pacemaker DJ app, to see what life is like after hardware.
Pacemaker app for PlayBook - ImpressionsSee all photos
Anyone who was lucky enough to have a spin on the original Pacemaker will know how much fun it was. It was ambitious, brave and optimistic -- characteristics we admire in any product. This time 'round, it's a more modest affair, turning up -- just for now -- as a BlackBerry PlayBook app. Even though we were fans of the dedicated hardware, the transition to app form makes sense. The hardware of the PlayBook is far superior than what the original Pacemaker contained, and the touch interface of tablets lends itself well to what's needed for a DJ app. In fact, so much so that the interface of the app is almost a carbon copy of the original machine, but making (much appreciated) use of the relatively sprawling screen.
When we picked the tablet up, getting started with the app took no time at all. All the transport controls are near identical to the hardware counterpart, once you get used to their new -- and more logical -- locations. Having enough space to show both decks at the same time, for example, is a big step up from the original system that left you perilously close to "touching" the wrong deck at any given moment. There's also the same solid collection of filters, EQs and effects that we enjoyed so much on the hardware. We were using a beta version, so a few features were incomplete, but over all it's about as faithful a translation as you could hope for. Not surprising really, given how much effort (and time) went into developing the product the first time, a total of 12.5 man years!
If you've never laid hands on a DJ app before, let alone the Pacemaker hardware, it's equally amiable to beginners. Two virtual turntables and a mini-mixer make up the main interface, with a few extra bells and whistles. Track selection is a bezel-swipe away, and a visual representation of each track lets you know where you are. The "P" button hides all the extra goodies that you'll want to access once you have basic mixing down.
We've had our thumbs atop a great many tablet-based DJ apps, and easily this out classes most of them, even as a beta version. The interface is intuitive and easy to pick up, but there are also some core features and effects that take this a step beyond just "auto-mix" tomfoolery (yes you can split cue and monitor with headphones etc.) The app is teetering on the brink of release, and gets its official debut at BlackBerry World in Orlando today, and should be cued-up and ready in BlackBerry App World next month.
Those that don't own a PlayBook can take some solace in the fact that Pacemaker likely will come to other platforms, but at this time the developers are unable to confirm which. For now, if you're itching to get your hands on a DJ app, or pine for some of that Pacemaker experience, without the hardware price tag, you might want to keep your ears open for this one.