The device is much heavier and larger than I expected, most of the weight is probably taken up by the 120GB hard drive so I expect it to become lighter in the next generation. I assume this is also the reason for the large size. While it wasn’t exactly difficult to keep hold of, it required a fair amount of effort and was easier to rest in my lap that to try and hold near my chest.
The LCD screen is in a circle, while it is certainly unique I felt that this meant a lot of potential screen real-estate was missing. I understand the desire to create an aesthetically pleasing layout, but they could easily have made the trackpad square to keep it uniform. After all we have all become used to square trackpads on laptops and Kaos pads.
Once you are given a quick demo of how the device work its is reasonably easy to mimic and get playing by yourself, however without an introduction it is near impossible. The use of gestures to control the interface does make it easier to remember commands, but almost impossible to learn them by yourself.
To perform a basic mix you first need to load tracks into the left and right banks. A double-tap brings up the library list with around 8 tracks being shown on the screen at once. There is no search functionality or folders so even with only a few tracks loaded it was hard to find the track you’re after. Additionally only the artist and track is displayed, no additional data such as length or BPM. Once you have highlighted the track you are after you must slide your finger in the direction of the bank you wish to load the track into.
To play a track, use the bank select button and hit the play button. Straight forward enough, but now to beat-matching the next track. First you must setup your headphone cueing by pulling down on the P-Switch, and then use the crossfader to select the bank you wish to cue, or a mix of both banks. This is where the weight and size of the device really come into play, it felt very awkward performing the finger kung-fu death grip.
To change the pitch you must now push the P-Switch upwards and use the trackpad to adjust the pitch. Straight forward enough however I could never get the accuracy I required on the adjustments. The device does have auto BPM match but I could never get it accurate enough.
Once you have the tracks matched you simply slide the crossfader across to begin the mix. This is simple enough but I prefer mixing using level faders and not the crossfader, so I would prefer to see two independent level faders on either side of the device.
To EQ a track you run your finger over the trackpad in a specific direction, this then allows you to again use the trackpad to set the EQ band. Simple enough except you can only change one band and one track at a time. This alone pretty much makes the device a toy rather than a serious device.
Filters and Effects
The various filters and effects are triggered in a similar way to EQing, but use of the tricky P-Switch is required once again. Only one effect may be used at a time but I am hopeful this will be changed in the future. Roll; echo and reverb were present, as well a high/lo filter. The effects weren’t brilliant, but certainly acceptable.
The Pacemaker comes with software for managing the device (Mac OSX and Windows XP & Vista versions only), unfortunately I did not get to see this in action so I can’t comment.
Overall the Pacemaker is a pretty solid device, although it is obviously first generation. The concept and the ideas are very appealing however it could really benefit from better interface design, lighter and smaller components, and closer attention to how real DJs mix.
The best use of the device would be to preview new tracks and test how they mix together, or for a bit of fun in the lounge room after a big night out with your mates. It’s nowhere near being a real DJ device in its current form but shows a lot of potential.
Please Note: The device I used was a beta product and may differ from the final product.