We began to delve into the technical side of DJing with our DJing Made Easy feature, and we plan to expand our coverage of the production side of this bus
iness. In that technical spirit, we attended the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show in Anaheim, CA earlier this month, which crams over 1,441 exhibitors into the West coast’s largest convention center. While there was no shortage of new kit on display from companies like Numark, Pioneer, Avid, and Novation, one of the biggest trends from the show was the multitude of DJ solutions for the iPad. Think this device is just for media consumption? Think again.
But first, what is NAMM?
NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants, holds an annual event at the Anaheim Convention Center where vendors showcase their most revolutionary new music-making products of the year. Offerings range from mixers and microphones to instruments and monitors, providing for one of the most unique weekends in the business. This year, over 95,709 attendees registered to attend, representing a six percent increase from last year and setting a new record for the 110-year-old show.
This was my first time at NAMM and my experience was overwhelming yet captivating. Walking down the exhibitor floor itself hyped me up and motivated me to discover something — or someone — new. There’s definitely an aura about this convention that prompts attendees to challenge their curiosity and discover new musical innovations.
iPad at NAMM
Whether your killing time at work or DJing on stage like Deadmau5, the iPad’s rise in popularity is undeniable. With constant updates to iOS and its software development kit, Apple has has opened the doors for new music solutions only limited by what developers can think up — and build. The iPad has taken America by storm, and it’s no wonder that we saw the tablet being displayed around every corner on the exhibitor floor.
That’s a stark contradiction to last year, where the iPad wasn’t treated as seriously and its potential was left un-maximized. Products like MIDI apps, fancy dock stations, guitar modeling apps, even arcade games were being introduced but didn’t present any real integration for professional results. In January of 2011, the first iPad had just been introduced and the country was still warming up to it. Just a few short months later, iPad 2 was launched and we’ve been seeing more professional offerings ever since.
This year, we saw how iOS devices and their hardware-integrated counterparts combined to advance music technology. We were particularly impressed with the decision of many vendors to come out with hardware interfaces to go alongside their iOS apps. Previously, the problem with using the iPad to work on music was the connectivity options: there was no real input / output. Now, brands like Numark and IK Multimedia have created compelling hardware options to work with Apple’s tablet. Here are a few of some of our favorites.
Numark iDJ Pro
Numark has always been ahead of the curve with iPad-for-DJ products, but this new iDJ Pro is a pretty nice concept. It’s a “premium” DJ controller interface that works with your iPad, letting you use the hardware to control the interface inside the iPad. It gives you access to you iTunes, iCloud and line/mic inputs for mixing, and preserves access to things like AirPlay and Bluetooth streaming. At a hair under $500, it’s priced just right for a super cool high-tech toy. Will the iPad replace Serato? We think not (for now, at least), but it is an interesting thought.
Read More: Numark
Akai MPC Fly
Akai’s famous MPC drum style sampler sequencers have been popularized by countless hip-hop producers such as Kanye West and Dr. Dre, and more recently by Araabmuzik. This new Akai MPC Fly is much like a normal MPC, except that it’s powered by your iPad. It contains a library of kits inside and a 4 track recorder, but are also drawn to its portability and design. When folded open, the whole unit looks like a laptop — an awesome, futuristic laptop with special sauce to make music. Unfortunately we couldn’t test one out for ourselves at NAMM, but this is one piece of gear we will be trying to get our hands on soon.
Read More: Akai
IK Multimedia iRig ‘Mix’
Advertised as “the first DJ mixer for iOS devices,” the iRig Mix is a handy piece of equipment. It has all the standard DJ mixer features such as gain, crossfade, EQ, and faders, and works with multiple iOS devices, or really anything that has a line out. Designed to be used with companion app DJ Rig, the setup works best when you’ve got two iPads. It also promises to sync songs between multiple units, which could be a big help for beginners. The iRig Mix will sell for $100 when it ships later this month.
Read More: IK Multimedia
After scouring pretty much the entire floor, we can safely say that we found iPads and iPhones almost everywhere, taking the place of microphones, guitar amps, live sound mixers, studio plugins, DAWs, and more. We chose a small handful of devices, but there’s a whole lot more out there.
While todays market has placed a major focus on software, that’s not always what’s required for music. All of these products augment the iPad, rather than existing within it. We’ve long maintained that a big part of DJing is the hardware being used, and most people aren’t ready to make the touchscreen jump just yet. However, we’re glad to see companies embracing these new technologies and using them to enhance their products, rather than pretending they don’t exist at all.