The iPad's gorgeous 9.7-inch display has been attracting attention for its musical potential, and the Djay app from Algoriddim has definitely contributed to some of the noise. The guys who brought a consumer-friendly DJing app to the Mac have gone ahead and ported it over to Apple's magical tablet, enabling pretty much anyone to get their shot on the decks. Does Djay for iPad live up to the hype? Read on past the break to find out.
Now, we learned about the 1's and 2's primarily using Serato's Scratch Live and so Djay seems a little elementary to us -- but that's really by design. If you're at all familiar with Djay for Mac, then you'll feel right at home with Djay for iPad. Djay doesn't strive to be a replacement for your CDJ-2000s or Numark NS7s, it fills a different role altogether. Professional DJs will surely be let down by the functionality, but that's not who this app is for. If all you really want to do is blend songs into each other and start with some elementary beatmatching, Djay has you covered. Still, no matter your level of experience, everyone can enjoy the novelty of using it.
UI-wise, it's clear where the guys at Algoriddim got their inspiration, as the Djay app essentially turns your entire iPad's screen into a virtual DJ rig. It's got two decks with waveform overviews above, a crossfader in the middle, as well as individual channel mixers, volume controls, and pitch blend sliders. Another nifty design touch is that the needle can me moved to seek within a track, and it moves inward as the track progresses. There's also an "Automix" button front and center, as well as cueing buttons below the decks -- but more on those later.
Thanks to the fact that Apple enabled access to the full music library in a recent edition of the SDK, you can access all of your playlists and songs directly within the app. Our pre-release version featured a large song selector that was actually a bit more convenient than the smaller, HUD-style popup that ships with 1.0. It's a small change, but we still hope the guys at Algoriddim can make it an option in the future. If you're anything like us, you've got a lot of music and the iPad has the real estate to display more than just eight or so at a time.
Use and functionality
We've established that Djay's nice to look at, but how does it perform? Well, we've been testing the app since late last week, and have to say it's pretty awesome. The first few minutes you spend with it, you learn the controls and where everything is. (It took us a solid twenty seconds to figure out how to load a track the first time we opened it.) Once you've got one chosen, it slides it onto the deck, starts playing, and automatically begins analyzing it. It takes about 45 seconds to fully analyze a six to seven minute track, but after the first time, you shouldn't have to do it again. When you hold down a deck to scrub, it zooms in on the waveform so you can see it in more detail -- a welcomed addition for setting cues and finding that sweet spot. Still, we wish there was a way to manually zoom in, or perhaps get some color coding like in Serato -- but these are features probably planned for updates.
One of the biggest drawbacks of using Djay in a real-world setting is not even its fault, but rather the iPad's paltry 256MB of RAM. After about six or seven full length tracks, we were seeing the dreaded "Low Memory" notification where our beautiful waveforms had been populating not a moment earlier. This will clearly vary for everyone, depending on how many apps are open and what songs you're playing, but it's an annoyance nonetheless. Either way, Apple is likely to up the RAM in the iPad 2, so this likely won't be a problem forever.
There's also the fact that no matter how much the UI resembles real turntables, the iPad's 9.7-inch surface is still devoid of any knobs or sliders. Using the touch controls takes some getting used to initially, especially with sensitive maneuvers like adjusting BPMs or finding an exact cue point. On the flipside, however, is the added advantage of multitouch: you can literally do 4 things at once. Whereas with a full rig you're confined to two hands, with the smaller surface area and ten fingers on the multitouch display, it's possible to be doing so much more.
Other features, nice touches
The app features built-in "beat and tempo detection" (it analyzes waveforms), mixers, EQ controls, and the ability to Automix. We found the Automix functionality to not be much more than a transition with an old-school vinyl scratching sound, but maybe we were expecting too much from it. This reminds us that Apple has still not added a crossfading option for playback on its iDevices, but we digress.
As seems to be standard fare with iOS apps these days, Djay supports multitasking and AirPlay, so you can send your mix wirelessly to any AirPlay supported device. We tested the AirPlay feature with our AppleTV, and as you'd expect, the live experience is pretty terrible over WiFi. There's enough of a delay to make it nearly impossible to DJ using this method, but it works well with Automix. Unfortunately you can't output sound over AirPlay and use the headphone jack for precuing, but we wish you could. Additionally, if you purchase a stereo / mono split cable, you can even enable Split Output for pre-cueing up songs through your headphones while still outputting the master to your speakers. Still, most of the time we spent spinning was just using a single output and the results were pretty good. Regardless, if you've got any plans on using Djay for a real-world gig, you should probably think about investing in one of those. Oh, and did we mention you can record and save your sets at the end?
Djay sure does bring a lot to the table, but it has some shortcomings that will undoubtedly bother more experienced DJs. At this point there's no way to set or manipulate loops, and the same goes for multiple cues. Algoriddim assures us that these are features they're well aware of, and we're likely to see them appear in future versions down the line. We also raised the question of possible effects, even suggesting the option of In-App Purchases, and they said they were open to the idea as well. Finally, don't be surprised if eventually you could use the Djay remote app on an iPhone or iPod touch to control the iPad software. This app is still in its very early stages, and there's tons more functionality we expect to see added in the future.
Honestly, Djay is one of the most impressive music apps we've seen for the iPad to date. With a killer interface that's not too cluttered, it's sure to catch anyone's attention and make them want to play. However, the iPad's 256MB of RAM make it difficult to use for extended periods of time. Still, with tons of features in the pipeline and a rock solid user experience, we'd recommend this one to anyone who's got the $20 to spare and a desire to get the party started.