A couple of days back we broke the news that Algoriddim had upgraded its iPhone and iPad DJ apps to take advantage of the latest leaps in iOS hardware and software technology. Headline improvements included iOS stereo cueing and in-app music purchases, but there’s more too.
We guessed that if the features had been delivered flawlessly, there’d be a chance that they could usher the market towards mainstream acceptance of iOS DJing. And as we’ve now had time to assess how well the new versions of the software perform, here’s our verdict…
The iPad version doesn’t seem at first use any different from the last version we reviewed, djay for iPad 1.4. There have been no big GUI changes, and everything is as you’d expect if you’re used to using the previous version. However, it’s a different story with the iPhone version. Because for the iPhone 5 at least, there have been major changes to the GUI, with functions that had previously been ushered off elsewhere now back on the main screen.
For the iPhone 5 there have been major changes to the GUI…
So the three main areas we’ll cover are dual stereo outputs, in-app music purchases, and those GUI changes. Just before we get stuck into those, though, I want to highlight a small change that I loved.
This may seem trivial, but particularly on the iPad interface you can now always see the BPM data (and sort by it) regardless of whether you are using the small or full screen library display. This functionality is also available for the smaller devices too. Oh, and a there’s a search facility on the small library too. Good stuff. Now on with the bigger points…
Dual stereo outputs
So we can confirm that you can now finally output “dual stereo” with iOS 6. Let’s be clear about what that means, though. At the moment, it means that you can output one stereo master signal (two channels, ie left and right) via the 30-pin connector, and a different stereo signal (eg for cueing) via the headphone jack.
While this is something which has been frequently discussed, and while it’s great to see it finally becoming a reality for DJ apps, this 30-pin / headphone socket duality is a limitation. It means, for instance, that units like the Numark iDJ Pro can’t currently fully integrate dual stereo into their workflow. (It’d need both outputs via the 30-pin.)
We suspect, though, that this is not going to be far away. In the case of the Numark iDJ Pro, the unit is capable of being easily upgraded via firmware for future iOS improvements. We can assume that the unit will be able to take advantage of this as and when it arrives.
How dual stereo works
If you want a detailed breakdown, there’s an FAQ for set-up and support of audio devices on the Algoriddim website. But here, let’s look more closely at how the dual stereo could be used. The app achieves this by utilising the multi-route audio capabilities of iOS 6. (iPad 1 owners are left out in this instance.) That means you can now connect one of the following to your iOS device via the connection socket at the base of the unit:
- A USB audio interface – such as the Griffin iMic USB audio device. Of course there are others, possibly including the still-forthcoming Vestax V-Midi (review hopefully coming soon)
- An HDMI lead – Yes, this means you could plug your iOS device into a TV (as I did recently for a demo and tutorial session). Not only does the display get sent to the screen but also your master audio. Maybe good for house parties or small bar environments
- A USB audio dock – So you can dock your iOS unit, and use the USB audio dock to both power it and provide the main speakers
Because the cue signal is being sent via the headphone jack, it seems natural to connect your headphones to the iOS device. It appears that you can’t change the volume in hardware once you’re plugged in, so it pays to ensure that your master volume is set where you want before connecting to any of the above (you still get software control over cue and master volumes, to be clear).
One hidden advantage of the new routing option is that your in-app recordings will now be in stereo too.
iTunes Store integration
So iTunes may or may not not be the first place you go to to purchase tracks; however, if you’re playing out and need to play a track that you overlooked then this could be a potential gig-saver. Of course, if you buy into the whole iTunes match cloud music concept this is a neat fit for that workflow.
The integration appears to be effective, and is all done from within the library screen of the app. As you load up the music library you can access the iTunes store via a button at the bottom of the screen. From here you can search for a particular track or browse genres. If you tap on a track you get to preview the track before purchase.
I noticed that sometimes the preview audio can play over your master audio output, regardless of your cueing set-up. I asked Algoriddim what’s going on here, and they told me:
“If you preview by tapping directly on the track that should not be the case. That is only a side effect if you use the built-in iTunes previewer (that comes up on iOS 6 after you click the iTunes Buy button). Routing the preview through the signal path is a good enhancement request, currently this is not possible as we are fetching the audio stream from a network (iTunes) and can’t easily route that through our pre-cueing engine.”
Bottom line is that you should get comfortable with how this works well away from a performance situation. You don’t want to accidentally break into your mix previewing a track by pressing the wrong button! lgoriddim also added that a future update will show a warning so you won’t do this in error.
iPhone / iPod Touch changes
If you have rushed out to buy a new iPhone 5, the changes with djay for iPhone and iPod Touch will bring a smile to your face.
Because the iPhone 5 screen is slightly larger, there is space for the pitch sliders at the side of each deck. There’s also space for the BPM information at the top (along with the Sync button). This makes the screen look even more like that of the full version for the iPad – at a fraction of the cost! Obviously, you don’t get these interface changes with older versions of iPhone or on the iPod Touch.
If you own an iPhone 4S, don’t despair though, as you’ll still benefit from another improvement: The introduction of the keylock and “high precision analysis” features in this version of the app. This allows you to alter the tempo of a tune without altering the pitch and without it always sounding terrible. No pitch lock feature on any software is perfect, by nature, but this sounded as good as most in our tests.
The iTunes integration is a good idea, despite the potential preview audio trip-up which you’ll need to watch out for. In fact, Algoriddim has already implemented a similar feature: its vjay app provides the opportunity to purchase music videos from iTunes within the app.
(If you own an Numark iDJ Live, by the way, there appears to be a compatibility issue with iOS 6 which Algoriddim and Numark are working together on, so expect this to be addressed in the near future.)
For mainstream acceptance, I suspect we’ll need to see dual stereo outputs via the 30-pin connector…
The dual stereo output functionality is the big news for most, though. It will be interesting to see how other DJ apps make use of the multi-route code in iOS 6. One thing is for sure though, this should address one of the main objections to iOS DJing so far.
For mainstream acceptance, I suspect we’ll need to see multi-channel output through a single 30-pin/lightning connector, and independent in-situ volume control adjustments of both. Apparently technically this is all possible, it’s just a little behind prime time as we write.
But again, as with every leap iOS and djay have made over the past year or so, this is getting us closer still to it becoming the most insanely useful, portable and fun DJing platform of them all. As always, exciting times for iOS DJing.
- Multi-route audio
- Stronger feature list for iPhone 4 & 5
- Neat iTunes integration
We don’t like:
- Preview issue of iTunes track
- iDJ Live issue with iOS 6
Ease of use:
Do you have an iPhone 5, and are you using the djay app? What do you think? Do you have any questions or queries about the master/cueing set-up on iOS 6 and the djay app? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
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