Back in our 2007 Cool List issue, we described the Tonium Pacemaker as having ‘the potential to revolutionise the DJ world’. We’ve had to wait for what feels like a decade to see if it can fulfil that promise, but a finished sample has finally landed on our doormat. Let the micro-disco begin.

For the uninitiated, the Pacemaker is the first and only pocket-sized DJ rig. That doesn’t mean it lets you spin tiny coin-sized vinyl – inside its sub-PSP-sized metallic form beats a whopping 120GB hard disk on which tunes galore can be stored. Hook it up to speakers and a pair of headphones and you have an ultra-portable Djing setup.

On the button

The Pacemaker’s controls are kept to a minimum and as a result, each performs a number of functions. The thumb-friendly ‘P-switch’ on the side acts as a two-way Shift key, swapping between different modes.

The lozenge buttons select left and right channels, while the touch-sensitive crossfade mixes between them and also handles monitoring. Tune selection, channel volumes, EQ and effects are controlled by taps, linear sweeps or circular motions on the trackpad. It works well once you get used to it, but all these multiple functions mean you’re just one false move from cutting a track dead.

Your tracks are held on a 120GB hard drive, which will take around 14,000 six-minute 192kbps MP3s. It’ll also accept M4A, AIFF, FLAC, WAV, Ogg Vorbis and SNDs. There’s certainly plenty of space, but we’d love to see a skip-free solid-state version.

Learning to mix

So how do you put a mix together? It takes some practice but, like a musical instrument, you’ll be rewarded if you put in the graft. Setting up the tracks is simple enough – you select the channel, load up the track and match the tempos by holding the P-switch up and moving your finger around the rim of the touchpad.

From there, it gets a little harder. You need to set the cue point then, with one ear on your speakers and one on your headphones, listen to the track that’s playing and anticipate the start of a new section – at which point, you press play to launch the other track.

Of course, the two tracks aren’t ‘locked’ in sync, so you’ll to make minor adjustments on the fly to keep both in time. This is the hardest part and tricky for beginners, but experienced DJs won’t have any trouble here.

Mix, save, tweak and share

But the Pacemaker hardware is only half the story. The free-to-download Pacemaker Editor for Mac and PC is used to organise and transfer your tracks, and it also tags them automatically with BPM info. It’s not a million miles from how iTunes works with an iPod.

Fortunately, most of the glitches and bugs from the early firmware have now been fixed and firmware updates are frequent, downloading automatically onto the device via the Pacemaker Editor. Crucially, you can now also record mixes as you go, as the Pacemaker keeps a record of all the control changes you make, then transfers that info to the Pacemaker Editor.

It’s certainly not cheap but the Pacemaker’s functionality means that portable music needn’t be passive and non-creative – it’s all you need to cook up a storm on the train, in the office or at a house party. And with most of the early firmware bugs now ironed out, it’s finally ready fulfil its early promise.    


Stuff says... 

Tonium Pacemaker review

It won’t mix the tunes for you, but for those who can beat-mix or are prepared to learn, the Pacemaker is a dream come true