First, it must be said: Many people already DJ with an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. They works just fine in many settings, even without using fancy DJ apps that enable cross-fading, EQ, headphone cuing, and other mainstays of the DJ trade. After all, when most people talk about DJing at a bar or party, they’re basically just cuing up one track after the next — in other words, they’re not really DJing; they’re “spinning,” as in “I spin at this bar every Thursday night because I have good taste in music, not because I am some sort of turntablist ninja.”
You can even approximate a real DJ set-up with an app and a $20 cable.
However, the iPhone and iPod touch — and even the iPad — only let you take things so far, even with a dedicated DJ app and that cable. For a mere $100, IK Multimedia’s iRig Mix succeeds in allowing you to DJ or spin tunes with greater control, primarily because it is a hardware device. But its software is also more advanced, integrating tightly with the hardware to allow all sorts of neat tricks like automatically beatmatching tracks on one iPhone, two iPhones, or even an iPhone and a CD or MP3 player.
Overall, we feel the IK Multimedia iRig Mix is worth its $100 asking price if you throw a lot of parties, spin tunes at a bar, or even DJ casually at a club, though the real pros will always prefer more expensive, higher-fidelity gear. A bulleted list feels like the right format for explaining the deets:
- It sounds good enough, allaying our main concern. We didn’t notice any serious hiss, hum, dirty pots, or anything like that. So far, so good.
- The iRig works with four apps: DJ Rig or DJ Rig Free for mixing; AmpliTube or Amplitube Free for adding an instrument to the mix; VocaLive or VocaLive Free for singing or emceeing; and GrooveMaker or GrooveMaker Free (various paid versions are available) for making loops and grooves. You should use these official apps, and not other DJ apps, even though those would technically play through the system, if you want to enable the features listed elsewhere in this list. Also, the reason some of the apps are free is that they come with fewer effects, which are available as in-app purchases — or you can just pay for the full versions to get them included.
- DJ Rig lets you scratch (demo video below shows the iRig Mix in action with two iPads).
- In terms of build quality, the sliders move smoothly, with a nice bit of intertia, just like pro setups. Some of the knobs are a bit wiggly (remember, this thing only costs $100), but they have a nice rubberized coating. You get bass, treble, and gain for each of the two main channels, plus a third input with its own gain control that can be used for an instrument or microphone. Rubber nubbins on the bottom of the device stop it from slipping as you move the controls.
- Perhaps the most advanced functions on the iRig are the two center switches: Input, which toggles between a one-iPhone (or whatever) setup, and X-Sync, which allows a “dumb” device like a vanilla CD, turntable, or MP3 player to be synced to the iOS device on channel one. According to IK Multimedia, iRig Mix makes this possible for “the first time on any mixer.” Got it? In case you get confused, a helpful sticker on the back of the device helps you keep it all straight, even if you leave the manual at home:
- While DJing with one iOS device, we noticed a little bit of cross-talk between the channels when you have both turned all the way up — even if the mixer slider is all the way to one side. We suspect this is as much to do with the iPhone’s output as with the iRig, though, and in the usual scenarios (switching between two tracks and stopping the one that’s not playing), it’s not a factor.
- You still have to touch the iPhone, at the very least, in order to queue up songs, but also to activate the Sync (automatic beatmatching) and DJ Rig’s various effects. So if you’re serious (see video below), go with a two-iPad setup.
- You can cue either track up via your headphones with a dedicated headphone volume control, so the people in the club can’t hear the next track as you audition it or set a cue point in the DJ app. This alone makes it a far better option than using a single iOS device on its own, because only a rank amateur would DJ without a cue function.
- The power cord outputs to a USB mini jack, so you can power the mixer from a laptop or USB battery pack. That makes this “the first portable… ultra-compact DJ and audio mixer for the iPad, iPhone, and the iPod touch.”