We'll forgive the extremely nice folk behind the PDJ when they claim to have the first fully self-contained portable DJ set-up. But that's not to say that there is nothing new here -- in fact there's plenty. The PDJ is a rectangular slab of refreshing creative optimism. On each end is a touchscreen display that shows a virtual turntable, and in the middle is a small mixing and FX section. So, already the PDJ will be familiar in set-up to any DJ who picks it up (something the Pacemaker couldn't claim with its proprietary interface). The mixer section has rotaries for volume, FX and additional functions (more on this later). The most important thing, however, is the onboard audio interface which crucially means you can monitor in headphones before unleashing your mix onto the world. This sets it apart from pretty much every other mobile app out there that, at best, requires you to use an audio splitter (to the detriment of your sound). Of course, you're going to need some music to play, and there's 2GB of internal storage to let you do just that. If that's not enough, or you want to load up your latest jams right away, there's an SD card slot to let you do just that (up to 32GB). Beyond headphones, there's a line out for connecting it to a sound system, and a line in and microphone jack for adding external sound to the set. The brochure claims it offers 12 hours of battery life too -- rechargeable by mini USB. On the software side, the two virtual turntables respond to touch, and button controls (for cue / play / pause). In addition to the virtual turntable, there are also sample player and one-shot screens. We got out paws on the PDJ here at NAMM, so fade past the break for our impressions.
PDJ Portable DJ system hands-on
At about 286 grams, the PDJ is light to hold, but sits in the hand comfortably. Your thumbs naturally find their place hovering above the virtual decks, but the unit it plenty light enough that you can hold it with one hand, while using the other for more dexterous performance manoeuvres. The rotaries and crossfader in the middle section are plastic, but feel solid enough. This is, after all, a lightweight portable device. The LCD touchscreens let you get hands on with your music, as DJs are wont to do, and it's responsive and intuitive enough. Thankfully, most of the key functions (cue, volume, fade, loops etc) have hardware controls too. To reach the extra functionality (more in depth EQ, sample player and so on) you swipe the screen to the left or right accordingly to bring up the relevant screen. It's in these cases when the dual-mode (rotate and click) Function A/B rotaries come in handy, and the interface for controlling these extra tricks is surprisingly natural / responsive.
The PDJ makes the usual claims about being able to scratch and so on. And you can. But as with all these smaller, touch-digital devices, it's more of a party trick than anything else. No biggie though, as the meatier features are the beat sequence and music-pad sections. These let you bring your own audio into your set, trigger samples and build beats and jams on the fly -- much more suitable to a digital device such as this. While we only spent a short time with the PDJ, it's easily one of the most fun devices that we've seen here at NAMM. Purists might malign the constant attempts to shrink and gameify DJing, but we say you're thinking about it too much. Throw one of these in your bag, and the next time you're on the train and want to mix in headphones, or find yourself at a party, the PDJ will suddenly make a lot more sense. How much and when you say? Well expect to pay about $600 for the privilege sometime around late spring or summer.
Billy Steele contributed to this report.