A PSP-sized console that lets you ditch the decks, the Pacemaker promises to revolutionise the clubbing experience. DJ’s could take it onto the dancefloor and dance along with their crowd, while massive kit bags will be banished to clubbing history.
That’s Swedish company Tonium’s theory, anyway, but how does it shape up in use? The main surface is occupied by a screen and touchpad, with buttons for channel selection, cueing, play/pause, and a little crossfader strip. Round the side, there’s the ‘P-switch’, which switches between modes. The Pacemaker has a 120GB drive, storing up to 14,000 six-minute songs at 192kbps MP3 (also supported: M4A, AIFF, flac, wav, ogg vorbis, and snd).
The top edge features a power button, mini-USB connector, and an effects switch; the mains power connector, line-out port, and headphone socket are located at the other end. The Pacemaker can be charged from mains power or USB, giving around five hours of mixing. Songs are loaded via the Editor – there’s no iTunes interaction. The Editor also allows you to create mixes which you can upload to the Pacemaker site.
In the hands of an expert, the Pacemaker is super-cool – but it’s not easy to just pick it up and play with it. You have to memorise what to do with the multi-function P-switch – it’s not intuitive to pick up. The screen can show various info to help you, as well as flashing icons to give you a visual cue as to tempos. The touchpad is used for navigation and editing based on the position of the P-switch.
Once you understand the layout, the Pacemaker functions in a way that DJs would expect; start song A, switch decks, select song B, cue it, use the touchpad to adjust the BPM, then crossfade it into the main mix. The line out should be connected to an external mixer, while you use your headphones for cueing purposes. It’s also workable for practice sessions, sending both tracks through the headphones, and using the crossfader to balance them.
Beyond that, Pacemaker allows looping of song sections, and has audio effects including EQ, Echo, Reverb, and Roll. Learn how to use these and you’ll start to sound pretty good.
The Pacemaker isn’t just about digital music geekery – Tonium is also trying to foster a community of digital DJs at www.pacemaker.net. Combining social networking, tutorials, and musical showcase, the website aims to bring Pacemaker users together to show what can be achieved with the gadget.
Users upload mixes from the Editor software and can give and receive ‘props’ for good mixes. You can stream other users’ mixes and join fanclubs to bookmark people who are floating your boat. You can even send friend requests just like on MySpace and Facebook.
The Pacemaker is expensive – similar funds would buy a Numark iDJ2, which works in a more conventional way and uses the iPod, so has more appeal for the beginner. It seems like a great idea, but as a new idea and new technology, the story is unfinished. The hardware interface, Editor, and documentation all need work, but if you’re a decent DJ you’ll probably be keen to try it – and you’ll probably be chuffed with what it can do once you’ve learnt how to transfer your skills to its interface.