Guest post by Gabriel… It wasn’t long ago that using CD player in clubs was considered sacrilege. Now, with big DJs getting behind ever smaller DJ systems (we recently reviewed the well-received djay for iPad), that’s all changing. But can a full DJ set-up get any smaller than this one for iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad, backed by none less than Ferry Corsten?
The makers of Cue Play DJ claim it is possible to play a real DJ set using nothing more than your iPhone or iPod Touch (it also works on iPad) and this app. I wanted to find out if it really would be good enough to play a real club set with. Check out the video above, then below, let’s look at the app itself, and how it performed in a real club.
Basically Cue Play DJ offers an easy to understand layout / interface to let you play back 2 tracks at a time (WAV/MP3/M4A), and if you’re familiar with DJing or sound equipment you’ll immediately recognise common similarities. If you are beginner, the clear and logical layout will help you to quickly navigate your way around the app and its features and functions.
You switch between the fader/pitch functions by double tapping the fader/pitch button. The double arrow buttons act as pitch bends when tapped, top for slowing down, bottom for speeding up, and FF/RW when held down.
Even though everything you do is done by touching the screen, it was designed to look and work like professional DJ equipment, therefore all the controls are well spaced out, and the screens zoom in to enlarge them and to make the functions like low/mid/hi knobs, kill switches, load/sync and play/pause easier to access.
They really have crammed a lot in to this. There are 3 effects including the all-important low-pass filter, plus BPM tap for correcting BPM or adding to non-BPMed music files, the choice of resetting track settings on load or not, and switching between knobs and horizontal/vertical faders for ease of use on that tiny screen.
Even though everything you do is done by touching the screen, it was designed to look and work like professional DJ equipment…
With real beatgridding (don’t expect Ableton style warping!) and BPM / phase auto syncing, they’ve not forgotten any of the current DJ features.
I almost expected to find a real-time sampler there! That would have been a bit ambitious of course, but let’s take a closer look at what has been implemented:
Loops and cue points
Flipped on its side, the display shows detailed waveforms, which helps with inserting your start point and cue points (up to 5 per track) nice and accurately.
Creating loops is very easy. You tap on the beat number button you require, and this activates the loop, which plays according to the number of beats displayed on the selected button. You tap again to deactivate.
Following the same process as above, hot looping (notice that the red light under “HOT” is lit in the image to the left; you just tap it to enable / disable) allows you create more natural (musically accurate) loops. These are based on where you start the loop points, not where the software calculates the loop points to be.
Set lists and transferring tunes
Creating a set list involves uploading BPMed songs to your chosen device for you to select and play from (you can BPM them using the supplied app or any BPM app that can write the correct value to your MP3s).
Although this uses up hard drive space on the device, it at least means you can have as many songs as your device will hold at your disposal. It can be quite a time-consuming process, and unfortunately (as far as I am aware) when you upload a new set list, it removes the current set list stored on your device.
Transferring tracks to your device is done over a WiFi connection with your computer. It is a bit tricky to set up, but once it’s done, uploading is pretty straightforward. This procedure should not put anyone off. It is a process that I’m sure will become much improved as they revise the software over time, especially as iOS 4.2 now lets applications access tunes in the iTune library directly, something not possible when this app was originally released.
The easiest way to facilitate separate headphone cueing is to purchase a 3.5mm male stereo to 2 x female mono splitter (to mono, meaning only playing through one side or channel not both which is stereo, very important to remember this when you ask for it in the store).
This will split the output signal, and send it out through the 2 separate mono outputs. You also need to buy 2 x 3.5mm mono to stereo adapters. Put one of each into the 2 mono sockets. These will turn the mono signal back into “stereo” (audio on both sides).
Because the stereo output is split, and then separated into 2 mono outputs, and then returned back to stereo (with the adapters), that is what allows you to have pseudo-stereo output in your headphones, as well as pseudo-stereo output into your master output (home hi-fi or club mixer, for instance).
The sound is in mono, but most club sound systems are mono anyway, so will make no difference at all as long as you can boost the signal nice and loud on the club mixer. Alternatively, you could just buy such a lead – here’s a DJ splitter lead on ebay.
Or, you could use WiFi to stream your DJing back to your laptop via a companion app that will allow you to plug master speakers into your laptop’s sound card (and record your set at the same time). Doing it this way means you don’t even need a splitter cable, but obviously you do need a laptop.
We didn’t test this function in real life but it looks kind of cool, if a little over the top. (Why use your iPod to DJ when you have a laptop in the room?)
Using it in a club
I was so inspired by this app that I had to road test it on my iPod Touch live in a club. I’m happy to report that it totally blew all my fellow DJs’ minds by how good it is.
It is quite clearly possible to play a competent DJ set from an iPod Touch, in a club, at a professional level
Everything worked fine, and we just couldn’t get over the fact that, with technology nowadays, it is quite clearly possible to play a competent DJ set from an iPod Touch, in a club, at a professional level.
Of course it took a bit of getting used to, but with a little practice using it (necessary for both the experienced and inexperienced DJ) it should be rare that many mistakes are made.
To conclude, for any DJ, professional or otherwise, who wants practice putting mixes together while away from their usual DJ set-up, or just be able to do a random set anywhere, this really is a very capable, portable solution – more portable is indeed hard to imagine. Grab a splitter cable and get past the set-up issues and you’re onto a winner.
• Cue Play DJ costs US$9.99 / £6.99 from the iTunes app store. More information from Capsulated Software.
Would you ever consider playing a DJ set in a club from your iPod Touch or iPhone? Have you seen DJs using such devices in clubs? Or do you think it’s a step too far? Let us know in the comments…
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