DJ gear is a big deal. There was a point when turntables were outselling guitars. But in the digital age it's all changed. Rarely do vinyl records grace the platters and digital apps are taking over.
Seeing its potential market, Philips has teamed up with superstar DJ Armin Van Buuren to create the M1X-DJ, an all-in-one and affordable DJ solution. Well, it's more than that really - it's an iPad dock and a mobile boombox too as the speakers are built in.
The implication is that there's no need to buy the amps, speakers, mixer and stacks of pricey DJ kit needed to get into the mix. But with all that gear in the single unit for just 400 euros (£338) does it just feel a bit budget?
Yes and no. If you're coming from a knowledgeable background and know what pro gear feels like then you'll find the closely positioned, plasticky channel faders to not have that standout quality feel. But for the money, and if you're a new starter, it's hard to make a fuss. There's a lot here for the cash.
Functionality, however, comes via the addition of an iPad - there's only a lightning connector hard-wired into the unit, so earlier generations will need an adaptor by the looks of things - that turns the M1X-DJ into a far more fulfilled bit of kit via the addition of the djay 2 app.
But the two-channel app and hardware solution have their limitations. This isn't Serato or Traktor and those programmes aren't designed with the M1X-DJ in mind due to lack of hardware integration.
Ultimately, then, the M1X-DJ is a giant midi controller that talks to an app. Its got a three-band EQ per channel to adjust bass, mid and treble and some on-board effects triggers. Up-faders and tempo control per channel also feature for adjusting the time scale of a track, while cueing up tracks in headphones - just like using a proper DJ mixer - is easy to toggle on or off via a button. But most of the workhorse stuff depends on the djay 2 app to produce the results in real time.
On the hardware front the M1X-DJ combines two adjustable platters that look a little like CDJs. Only they don't take discs and can't rotate like normal turntables, they instead function as jogwheels for live speed manipulation, including spin-backs or even a bit of scratching. Well, sort of. Chopping up with a small crossfader that sits deep within the unit doesn't exactly work well; it's not got the right resistance or glide. But with Van Buuren's name on it that's hardly a surprise, this is more one for the house music heads.
We were pleasantly surprised by the M1X-DJ's sound quality. There's no scrimping here. The on-board speakers are big and boom out the volume. How many watts we're not sure - there's no official spec sheet flying around and the Philips reps didn't have such details on hand - but, believe us, it kicks it.
Portable might not be the word to describe the M1X-DJ on account of its weight, but fling a strap onto it and it can be carried around. Talk about taking boombox to the next level. When not mains-connected the battery-powered unit will last out for around four hours at high volume. The associated iPad is doing all the hard beat-processing work via its own battery and doesn't charge up via the M1X-DJ's battery for best life. Pretty cool really.
The top part of the unit also detaches for transport - it can be flipped on its head to make a sealed unit that's not unnecessarily showing off the faders and platters. Makes sense, but it's a bit of a faff to get it back in again. The air trapped under makes for a bit of a battle when pushing it back in to the tight-fitting case.
A bit of head-nodding, some triggered horn samples, a smattering of echo effects and some terrible German synth-laden dubstep later and we could have fooled ourselves that we were Van Buuren. It takes some getting used to and the build quality is of course limited at this price point, but so long as you're a beginner then there's fun to be had from this compact all-in-one DJ unit.