Device Transforms Amateur DJs Into Mixing Pros
The EZ Pro DJ helps amateurs sound like pros.
CREDIT: JAKKS Pacific
DJing is a difficult hobby that requires precision, money and a fair amount of inborn rhythm, but one company is looking to lower the barrier to entry. The EZ Pro DJ is a small mixing-board peripheral that plugs into any Android or iOS device and can teach even the most rhythmically challenged aspiring DJs the basics of laying down beats.
The peripheral plugs into a device via a standard headphone jack, and a free app syncs your music library with the mixing board. The app provides music for the board, but it's up to you to mix two or more tracks to create your own unique beats.
The mixing board is made by JAKKS Pacific, a toy company best known for its DC Comics and Disney licenses. The EZ Pro DJ occupies a curious space in the company's lineup: too sophisticated to be considered a plaything, but not professional equipment by any stretch.
The device itself is a reasonable approximation of what a DJ's setup might look like: two "turntables" to scratch, a slider that cross-fades between two songs, and buttons to play "samples" (short, loopable sections of a song) and "cues" like drumbeats. The EZ Pro DJ is considerably smaller than a real setup — about the dimensions of a full-size PC keyboard.
"The first thing is the most important: It'll automatically beat-match for you," Greg Mitchell, director of marking at JAKKS Pacific, told TechNewsDaily. Since professional DJs frown upon automatic beat-matching, few professional software packages have this ability, and those that do are often expensive and of subpar quality.
Beat-matching is a crucial skill for any DJ worth his salt. In order to combine two (or more) songs, DJs must make sure that the songs have the same rhythm, or dancers will have no basis for how to move. This can create some unusual combinations — for instance, mixing rock with hip-hop will create a very different beat than mixing Southern rap with electronica. [See also: 10 Biggest Viral Music Videos of All Time]
Once you pick two songs and the app beat-matches them, you have a few more options at your disposal. "You can pitch up and down entire songs" — a technique that rap artist Kanye West has used frequently, said Mitchell. "There's an echo feature — very simple, but elegant in the way it works," Mitchell added. "You can cross-fade or echo back and forth between the A song and the B song."
Another distinctive "good little DJ trick" is equalization (EQ) compression, which allows users to emphasize a single part of the song (like vocals) while de-emphasizing others (like bass). By taking a sample of a word and running it through EQ compressions, DJs can repeat it and speed it up. Listeners may recognize this technique from the refrain in Korean rapper Psy's "Gangnam Style," in which the recording loops an "eh" sound that becomes shorter and shorter as the beats compress, leading up to a full stop.
Of course, users can also simply use the diminutive turntables to add a record scratch effect — a staple of hip-hop.
EZ Pro DJ retails for $50. Though it might not make a real DJ out of you, it could be a big hit at your next social gathering.