The pocketable DJ tool Pacemaker is now available here in the US at $499. That price is considerably more realistic than expected pricing earlier on, though it still fits in a funny sort of slot: it’s not quite the equivalent of pro DJ gear, which costs much more, but it’s still pricier than your run-of-the-mill DJ player. For those with the pocket change (cough), I could imagine it’ll be fun.

And you do have to admire the Pacemaker for being a really unique hardware gadget idea. It’s a glimpse of what music technology could be like in the very near future. Generically, you might describe it as:

  • a specialized embedded mobile gadget with sonic-manipulation capabilities
  • a connection between a mobile device and a computer-based editor
  • a cloud-based, online community for sharing work

Take that as the template, and I think you’ll agree there’s a lot of potential in the basic concept. The specific idea here may be a tougher sell. It’s actually like the DJ-centric “Pro iPod” I remember Jason O’Grady of and I once imagined in the first months of Apple’s iPod release. Whether DJs actually want that is another question – particularly with the iPhone and other mobile devices adding this functionality in software. But in the specific, as in the generalized view, the Pacemaker is nothing if not intriguing:

  • 60 GB storage
  • Touch controls
  • DJ playback functions: auto-beatmapping, synchronized loops, reverse, bend, pitch speed, timestretch, cue points, vinyl-style scrubbing / pausing
  • Visual feedback: beat graph, graphical effects visualization
  • Onboard effects: EQ, normalization decimator, filter, wah, echo, delay, key, effects crossfader for adjusting levels and beat sync on a lot of the effects
  • Two onboard channels (virtual channels, though – if this thing just had a line in function, I think I’d absolutely want one)
  • Independent headphone out jack, adjustable mix
  • Lots of audio codec support: MP3, MP3 VBR, M4A (AAC-LC), AIFF, FLAC, WAV, Ogg Vorbis and SND (!)
  • MiniUSB connection for a computer


Product page:

US sales: Tonium Pacemaker Pocket-Sized DJ System @ Amazon

I think that’s actually a pretty extraordinary set of specs, and it reveals just how fast the embedded space is moving forward. In fact, I think it may not be too long before the music tech manufacturers (Korg, perhaps?) start to embrace mobile/embedded applications for development. The result: even if the Pacemaker isn’t your thing, mobile music gadgets are looking increasingly like computers, which could get very interesting, indeed.

Will you use it on the beach, like this? For me, um, no. I’ll be hanging out, doing beachy things. If I tried this, I think I would trip over someone’s beach chair and make a very embarrassing scene.

And yes, if you’re getting a steady diet of DJ gigs, you can afford this. Enjoy. (If anyone gets their hands on one, I’d love to hear what you think.)


Our friend Nilay Patel at Engadget was one of the first in the US to get a Pacemaker in for review. Now, when is an unboxing of a product actually interesting? When the packaging adds touches like this:

Each cable is individually packaged in tissue paper inside its own box, and the flaps all have different little fortunes printed on them, from "Your future is looking sound" to our personal favorite "Listen to your mother."

Tonium Pacemaker unboxing and hands-on [Engadget]

  • Jason Duerr

    Fantastic device, but this does not do anything to help the central problem all digital DJs face today:

    It looks like you are checking your email.

    Palm devices like this will keep your head down.
    It's a problem.

    These days I tend to stay / look busy by mixing on a full size non-dj mixer.

    Jason // Chicago

  • Well, I suppose you can pick the thing up. I sort of envisioned it more as something you'd play with on the road, then integrate with a real setup with decks / mixer in performance. But at this point, I think it's anyone's guess, so curious how people respond (and I'm not really a DJ as such).

  • Jason Duerr

    I think this will occupy a niche market of 'cooler than an ipod because everyone had an ipod', with the side benefit of actually being useful.

    Not a replacement for laptop/controller.

    Anyway, I think it's cool.

    Jason // Chicago

  • Oh, yeah, and they're definitely not marketing it as a laptop replacement, either — hence the USB port. 🙂

    I do think it's interesting, when you look at the functionality they have assembled on it.

  • TheNullSet

    I just find this boring. Yes, music is infinitely portable and tweakable anywhere now. Playback options and FX are falling from the sky. The only sexy, portable music making device that has excited me recently is the OP-1, because it offers interesting synthesis, control, AND great portability.

  • @TheNullSet: right, but look at the underlying technological capabilities necessary to make this happen. If you can do this, you can do other (potentially sexier) things, too!

  • TheNullSet

    @Peter: Absolutely. There is great potential here. I'm sure this thing will be a godsend for many. Hopefully its niche audience will expand into my territory once its potential for abuse has been explored. I still dont even have an Ipod. 🙂

  • SimSim

    Considering the fact that you will need their proprietary Software to transfer audio to the Pacemaker it's definitely out of the question for many people that would love to throw their OGGs and FLACs on that device.

    The website states that you can theoretically use it as USB Mass Storage Media but only for file storage since it will only allow mixing audio files that have been transferred via their editor app.

    No Linux support — no, thanks. 😉

  • @SimSim: Yipes – that's a big deal. I'll try to confirm that, but I'm with you on that.

  • @SimSim The Pacemaker supports both OGG and FLAC:

  • SimSim

    @PrtScr: Yes, which is — in itself — quite nice indeed but how do you transfer those files from a (insert favourite non-Mac-OS-X or non-Windows OS) computer to the Pacemaker? USB MSC is only for storage, you can not play files that have been transferred without the help of their proprietary software.

    I can see no reason why Tonium would want to lock out non-win/non-mac users… can anybody give me a clue?

  • Downpressor

    And yes, if you’re getting a steady diet of DJ gigs, you can afford this

    Wait… some people get paid more than transportation costs to DJ? Why didnt someone tell me this sooner?

    All kidding aside, seems interesting and I'm pretty sure my back would be happy about hauling less gear to gigs but 1) the checking the email look aint cool, 2) how durable is this thing?

  • PrtScr

    @SimSim I think the BMP analysis is done in the software…

  • JAnU

    I had one of these, and sent it back to Tonium for a refund after a month of ownership. They (Tonium) are without doubt the worst company I have ever dealt with.

    I could write a very, very long indepth report on my (and all the other very early purchasers) dealings with Tonium, needless to say I won't be going back for more anytime soon.