DJBeing a nightclub DJ was harder in the analogue era; back then you had to deal with vinyl records and the problem was the turntable. Or if you were serious, the turntables.

Turntables don’t like being pushed in the wrong direction to backtrack, something DJs do all the time. Further, the stylus mounting is fragile and frequently snaps straight off when this happens. And the stylus itself is easily chipped by scratching. DJs love to scratch. Turntables object to being slowed down and sped up by a persuasive hand on the record, it does horrible things to the belt of a belt-drive turntable and to the motor of a direct-drive model.

Many would-be DJs discovered all this, to their considerable cost, in years gone by. The truly dedicated bought slip mats for their platters and reinforced styli so the record could be pushed backwards without disrupting things. The not-so dedicated either gave up or were sent to their room without supper.

Then Pioneer introduced digital turntables. They’re not actually turntables – they’re CD players that can be slowed, accelerated and even scratched, all without damage to anything including the CD in question.

DJ 2They revolutionised the DJ business in more ways than one; a professional DJ once told me he no longer suffered back pain as a result of lugging boxes full of vinyl records to his gigs. Since then, of course, CDs have become passé; you just hook in your tablet or phone into a digital mixer; there are no discs to jockey.

But mixers are complex beasts that take learning, and they cost. The DJM 900 nexus, Pioneer’s biggest seller (and it lists seven mixers and six CD-based machines) costs $2899 and it’s not the most expensive. Hiroaki Nishikawa, Pioneer’s manager of DJ equipment, says it can be found in many big nightclubs while lesser models (they start at $1499) make their way to smaller clubs and some homes.

Now Philips has put a mixer in affordable territory. It’s called the M1X-DJ and it was one of the hot products at the IFA trade show in Berlin last year. It has four heavy duty speaker drivers built in, along with a passive radiator to enhance bass, so it’s a stand-alone unit that can run on mains power or play for around five hours on eight D-cell batteries.

There’s a Lightning connector for iPads and iPhone 5s and Bluetooth for much else, as well as a couple of inputs for external audio equipment and an output to hook it into existing stereo systems for a bigger sound. There’s no in-built CD player.

The controls centre on two jog wheels that let operators mix, scratch and cross fade, the big attraction being that they don’t have to be on top of the tech to get started; it comes with an intuitive DJ app that gives an easy introduction to the whole process. As first timers become proficient they can move into more advanced features. The app is djay 2 by Algoriddim and is a strong seller on iTunes. It will be familiar to plenty of would-be DJs.

The upshot is a convincing DJ sound right from the start, along with operation that mimics the expensive equipment, so for anyone getting into the game it provides a pretty good introduction. The app also allows you to use music from iTunes as well as mix on your iPad screen. If that’s all too hard there’s an automix mode.

DJ 3The speaker array is fine for rehearsals and mucking about at home (if you’re making too much noise you can plug in headphones) but for serious party volume you’ll need to hook into an external amplifier and speaker system.

There’s a neat idea with the control panel. When travelling or storing it can be flipped over to avoid damage. And the speaker array can also be used as a Bluetooth speaker system.

The M1X-DJ is hefty at 7.5 kilograms and comes with a broad carry strap. It measures 38 x 19 x 23 cm (WxHxD).

This is hardly a professional machine but it does the business for anyone who wants to learn the art, and provides a solid grounding in how professional machines work. It’s good value at $550.

Published July 2014


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