The new millennium has brought some radical changes to the DJ world. As the technology has developed, DJs have embraced the convenience and features of CD players and DJ software. Perhaps the next possible step in making your DJ experience even more portable and your music library more accessible may be putting your entire catalog of tunes onto an MP3 player and taking it — and only it — to a gig. That may sound a little, well, little, but with the Numark D2 Director, you can do just that. Imagine, no more crates of records, no more books of CDs, no laptop with its requisite bagful of accessories. Just bring an iPod and some headphones, and you're ready to rock.
The D2 is easy to set up; just connect the power cable and two RCA cables that connect the two stereo outputs to two channels on your DJ mixer. Numark also includes a cool little QWERTY keyboard that you can use to access shortcuts while you're mixing. Before you go any further, be sure to download the latest firmware from the Numark Website; you can save it to the USB key that is included in the package. Installing the firmware was a breeze — just put the update on the top directory of the USB key, insert the key into the D2, turn on the unit and then wait for the prompt to hit any key to be good to go.
The most important part of the setup is taking the time to make sure your music library is well organized on your storage device. The D2 works with digital media including MP3, WAV and AAC audio files and will play back from USB devices such as iPods, flash drives and USB hard drives. Numark has developed a proprietary librarian software program that you can use to help organize and access your music, but if you prefer, you can just plug and play. I began by adding a bunch of tunes to the USB key (after backing up all of the included reference materials to my laptop and then reformatting the key) and then running the librarian software on my Mac. Make sure to leave some room on your storage device for the library file and any playlists you may create in the future.
There are a couple of options when building libraries, including making Seek Tables, which is the recommended option and the best way to ensure speedy load times of your files. You can also build profiles, which allows for fast graphic representations during playback. Be prepared to wait a bit for the profiles to be created, however, because it took about 20 to 30 seconds for each track in my library, with most of those songs being between 7 and 9 minutes long. When you first insert a USB drive into one of the three ports (one on the front panel, two on the rear), you're prompted to Update or Load your library. Select Load to upload the existing library that you created without checking for changes, or if you have changed the contents on the device by uploading new tracks or deleting tracks, hit Update.
DIG THE VIRTUAL CRATE
With music loaded into the D2, you have a few options for how to access and organize tracks. The top level of each library allows you to search text for titles, artists or albums, or you can browse through options similar to those offered on iTunes, including track, album, artist, genre and bpm. You can scroll through these options either with the Push Select knob or by using the up and down arrows on the USB keyboard, which makes getting around inside the D2 a cinch. My favorite ways to search through tunes are by track titles and also by bpm, which lists all of the tunes by their tempo. All the tunes were between 125 and 135 bpm, and grouped as 125 to 130 and 130 to 135. Selecting 125 to 130 lists all the songs in the library at that tempo, which is convenient if you want to keep your set flowing at a specific groove.
The D2 also features a virtual Crate, where you can make playlists from tracks on any of the connected storage devices and then have superfast access to all the tunes you may want for a set. If you disconnect a drive and reconnect it later, you will be prompted to reload any tunes from that library that you had previously placed in the Crate, which can be really helpful to keep a specific set of music together; or, you can ignore them and add new songs at your convenience. I also like using playlists to keep things organized, for instance creating one for peak-time sets and one for warm-up sets. They are easy to create and are stored with the library on the drive, so you can recall them at any time. It may seem like there's a lot of preparation required to get things rolling, but it's quite intuitive. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be navigating around the D2 with ease.
READY TO ROLL
Now that you have your entire musical arsenal at your disposal, perfectly customized and organized, DJing on the D2 is a snap. To load a tune into the player, scroll to the desired file, press To A or To B, and the song will pop up in the appropriate side of the display. From there, playback is similar to using a CD player. The tracks will automatically cue to the first beat, or you can create your own cue point by spinning the jog wheel to the spot you want and pressing Play to set it. The jog wheel can also be used for pitch bending and scratching, though I found that it was kind of tricky to get the playback to resume at the normal tempo after scratching. Those of you who are more technically proficient at scratching may not have that problem. You can select one of five settings for the pitch fader, with ranges from 0 to ±100 percent, which gives you the choice between precise adjustments for tight beat matching or wild pitch changes for interesting effects — and everything in between. The D2 also features seamless looping, continuous play, time elapsed or remaining display modes and fader start, which help round out this unique unit with the familiar tools to optimize your DJ experience.
It's hard to believe that technology has changed DJing so much in the years since I bought my first record and turntables, but I don't miss lugging around heavy record boxes one bit. The D2 Director takes portability to the next level and combines that with features that allow you to organize your music in so many different ways that you'll be able to access more music faster than ever before.
Listen to an exclusive audio demo of the D2 Director atremixmag.com.
D2 DIRECTOR > $799
Pros: Fully customizable, with loads of options to access large libraries of music. Easy to navigate. Large display. Plays AAC files from iPods.
Cons: Setup can be lengthy. Scratching takes some getting used to make it sound natural. Doesn't play iTunes-protected AAC files.