I recently heard about a DJ that was setting up at his event and for some reason his laptop would not boot up. Being the careful guy that he is, he always insisted on carrying backups. His backup happened to be mounted right in his system rack and was a digital controller. Quickly plugging in his external hard drive, he turned the unit on and nothing. The unit was not recognizing the drive. Grabbing the backup drive, he plugs it in and once again nothing. Finally, not to ruin his event, he calls his wife to bring his cd player and cds down to the hall where he is playing.
Later he found out his bag where he keeps his laptop and two hard drives was kind of rolled down the stairs by his son on accident… thus killing not only the drive in the laptop, but his main music drive and his backup music drive. It turned out to be an expensive accident.
The people of American Audio are releasing a new digital controller that you won’t have difficulties with hard drives or other external devices and you don’t need a laptop or college diploma to play music from it. The new SDJ-1 uses the virtually indestructible SD cards like what you see in cameras and PDAs. Everyone knows from watching CSI on TV that SD cards can practically be blown to bits and still work. At least I think they can.
Setting up an SD card with music for the SDJ-1 was a breeze. Out of the box, you get a USB to SD adapter so any computer with a USB slot can transfer music onto your SD card. I found the simplest file structure works best… mp3s in single level file folders in a root directory.
The two rack space SDJ-1 resembles a dual CD controller in layout. It has the normal CUE and pause/play buttons, but it has a bit larger display. In the center of the unit just above the on/off button, are two SD card slots that will each accept and read up to a 4 gig card with mp3 files ripped at up to 360 bit. For those with American Audio products, you will be familiar with their Q-fade feature. The SDJ-1 has the control outputs that will hook right into your Q-fade on your American Audio mixer.
Upon plugging the unit in and turning it on, I was greeted with an “insert card” message on the right and left display. I then placed a card into the unit and the display still read the same. Then I noticed the button for switching SD card slots and when I pushed it, the player came to life and read the ID tag and time from the first song on the card. When I pressed the same button on the left side, its display also read the tag and time.
The key to this player is the knob located just above the play/pause button. This knob has a number of uses… the first being selecting the folder you are looking for. This can be done by pressing the folder button and then twisting the knob to locate the folder you need. Once there, you press the folder button and then use the same knob to find the song you want in that folder. Since I thought ahead of time as to how I wanted my SD card to be set up, I had no trouble locating songs in seconds. It’s that simple.
Once a song is cued or is playing, you can press down on that same knob and the display will show you the file name, artist, title and basically read the full ID tag of the song currently being played.
This knob is also used for an advanced search feature that can be used while a song is being played. On the side that is currently playing a song, you can press the advance Track button and use the knob to scroll through the songs in your current folder. When you find the next song you wish to play, you press down on the knob. In the display, the ID tag info area changes to “searching…” and then once the song is located, the display changes to “found”. The SDJ-1 appears to load a small portion of the song into its memory because upon pressing the knob again, it instantly plays the selected song.
The feel of the SDJ-1 was that of an upper end cd player. The play button response was one of the fastest I have witnessed and the loop was seamless. Featuring a key lock button, pitch bend, and a pitch control that ranges from 4%-16%, and a built in beat counter American Audio did not leave much out in the design stage.
With a new format called SDHD on the horizon, the prices of SD cards are dropping to nothing. The SDJ-1 is a great alternative to those that want to be hi-tech without all the worries of that bump in the road wiping out all their music on a hard drive, or the unpredictability of music loss some people have experienced with portable consumer mp3 players. American Audio states that a 4 gig SD card will hold up to 1000 songs ripped at 128 bits, but everyone knows real DJs like their music ripped at 256 or more. Who cares, at 256 that’s still a 25 inch stack of cds you can now carry on a little card half the size of a book of matches. Now you can have your entire music library in your shirt pocket.