There are key names in the world of iOS DJing. Algoriddim’s djay comes to mind, as does MixVibes Cross, and the new Traktor DJ. But the daddy of them all is DJ Player — compared to the rest, it’s ridiculously featured and dances very much to the beat of its own drum. But from my own personal perspective, it’s always been hard to get into. But this all new version DJ Player 6 goes a long way towards encouraging me to take a second look.
It’s worth pointing out at this point that this is very much an early beta, that I am not a DJ Player expert, and that I don’t a manual or the time that trade show schedules allows. So consider this as strictly a first look and most definitely NOT a review.
Before we go digging into this version, it’s worth understanding what goes into DJ Player. If you take a look at pretty much all other DJ apps, the credits will list all manner of 3rd party bits and bobs of code that are building blocks for the bigger DJ app. DJ Player however is entirely coded in-house, without recourse to even system level things like Core Audio. And while it still uses the iTunes library, the actual speed of browsing is blisteringly fast. Overall, this optimisation makes this an absurdly lean application, that runs at super smooth screen 60fps, barely breaking a sweat and still having amazing battery life.
So what does V6 offer? Firstly a much better interface is in place. It still does things in very much its own way, but this time does it in a way that is much more engaging. An important addition — DJ Player now works in landscape or portrait, a mode that makes it compatible with Numark’s iDJ Pro. In terms of usability, portrait is actually a lot better than landscape, and feels a lot more logical and symmetrical.
Most notably, the big addition is 4 channels. It’s done across layers as cramming 4 sets of full-sized controls into an iPad screen is hard. And due to the slick architecture, 4 channels are still supported on iPad 2 with no hit on performance apparently.
The main screen has the absolute basics in place including transport controls, EQ, filter, XY control for efects, full and part waveform, line and cross faders. Despite the tactility of iPads and the positive invitation to pinch and zoom, the waveforms are what they are, something that we felt could do with changing. Because of the large controls, access to features like effects, looping, pitch and hot cues are done via secondary buttons, all of which offer similarly chunky controls. I’m still getting to grips with this and still have to spend time learning DJ Player before I feel at least competent — it is not a walk up and play app, and you really should spend time with the manual first.
There a few neat automation techniques in play here too. I like the new auto PFL feature that essential auto cues the next channel when you move the cross fader to the far left or right. A very neat trick is cross bass which via user definable curves (couldn’t find them in the beta) can kill the bass automatically and bring it in as you move the cross fader. This is a staple mixing technique, and given the complexity of trying to achieve it on a touch screen is a very welcome feature.
Sync has been beefed up as well. Full gridding controls are included to allow you so shift the grid to a perfect fit, but you also get options to turn off sync or not to quantise the gridded audio and take it old school. Just because it’s on an iPad, doesn’t mean that you have to sync everything, and sometimes it’s just not appropriate anyway.
My first impressions are better than DJ Player of old, which I felt tried to to too much and not in the slickest of ways. Perhaps the shift away from a more turntablish metaphor was too much for my addled mind to bear. Perhaps the need to learn it rather than just play put me off. But thankfully many of those barriers have been removed in this version, and I want to learn more as there is a lot of power happening here, not just from what I’ve shown you in this brief glimpse, but also the other things like mapping and DVS that DJ Player is fully capable of doing.
There’s so much more going on here, but I’m out of time. This is still very much a beta and does throw up some interesting performance glitches right now. We’ll come back and revisit this when it’s finished for a fuller and fairer appraisal.
Thanks to Gábor and iMect for the exclusive look. I think our meeting converted me a little more. 🙂