MixVibes has recently released an iPhone version of its excellent Cross DJ software.
DJing on smaller iOS devices has its challenges, mainly that the smaller screen means apps can tend to feel cramped and busy. However, we loved the sleek interface and functionality of the iPad version, so were interested to see how the experience translated to the iPhone version.
From the start, the welcome sight of MixVibes’s sleek, black interface is in evidence. MixVibes has used the available space wisely ensuring that none of the screens feel cluttered; even my shaky hands could, I found, tap the right buttons accurately.
The main transport controls of Play, Cue and Sync together with the crossfader at the bottom of the screen remain nearly identical to the iPad version. Once a track is loaded, the BPM is shown on the Sync button which feels like a clever use of space.
Rather frustratingly there seems to be no way of adjusting the BPM detected; there’s no manual tap and no double/half of the value possible. This would maybe more of an issue for anyone wanting to mix drum and bass with hip-hop perhaps, but I’d like to see it included.
The section that always grabs my attention with CrossDJ is at the top, where the unique waveform is displayed. By default the app will show an overall waveform with progress bar during playback and coloured cue point markers positioned accordingly.
In the central section, the circular beat display rotates round with every four beats (this is configurable, you could set it to cycle on 16 beats). If you miss the scrolling, more detailed waveform don’t worry. A single tap to the centre section will show that instead, along with the beatgrid lines marked.
A point to note here is that the app (unlike the iPad version) doesn’t currently allow you to manually adjust the beatgrids. Perhaps this will come in time, I hope so as it was one of the big advantages of CrossDJ for iPad over some of the competing DJ apps.
The spinning vinyl can be used to scratch (difficult to get into on a small screen) and also pitch bend. Through the settings, you can configure the deck to only operate as a pitch bend giving you an easy to use (and big) area for nudging the pitch. I found that you can trigger this even if the deck is in vinyl mode by pressing on the centre (ie the label area) of the vinyl which was handy. Something to remember is that you can only nudge the pitch while on the deck view; if you’re using any of the other screens this functionality gets obscured. So make sure your tracks are aligned before getting too creative with the mix!
If you’ve noticed that the pitch slider control isn’t displayed, then you’re correct. It’s hidden by default and displayed by pressing the pitch slider button to the left of the left deck. Incidentally, the button to the right of the right deck (a plus icon) takes you to the settings for the app.
Loading a track is simple, with the library screen giving you access to Playlists, Songs, Artists, Albums and Genres with the ability to search as well as sorting by Title, Artist or BPM. The option to analyse tracks as a batch is also available; this would mean you could load tracks instantly with the waveform, beatgrid and BPM pre-calculated.
Extended features such as FX, cues, loops and mixer are accessed using the three buttons in the centre section, each slide a window over the deck view obscuring it completely (with the exception of the top and bottom bars of the screen).
Cues and loops
The main cue is set easily enough on the deck view, however the app also has six hot cues for your use – all stored ready for the next time the track is loaded. The problem with trying to set the hot cues is that the deck is obscured, so for trying to set them accurately you’ll need to position the track correctly first then go to the hot cues page, set the cue and then go back to the deck view to move to the next desired location. Of course you could do this on the fly during playback but it is likely to be less accurate. The hot cues are all marked on the waveform with colour coded indicators.
The loop functionality is displayed in the same window as the hot cues. The loop increments are detailed from 1/32 beat up to 32 beats and can be fired in “Slip” mode. There’s no manual way to set the in/out points for a loop and as such they’re all tied into the beatgrids.
The mixer screen is self-explanatory featuring a good-sounding EQ section with double tap action to return the sliders to centre. There’s also a volume slider for each deck displayed.
The options for FX are the same as on the iPad version (Low-Pass, Flanger, Delay, Echo, Phaser, X-Phaser, Hi-Pass, Jet, Cut, Chopper, Crush, Bliss, Brake, Roll) although only the first three are available for free – the rest can be unlocked with an in-app purchase.
You can lock an effect so it is permanently on, allowing you to navigate back to the mixer page and adjust the pitch or perhaps play with the loops at the same time. The X-Y pads are reassuringly good to use, probably because of the generous space they are given on the screen.
You can customise the functionality through the settings page (via the plus icon on the right deck). Standard items such as pitch range, pitch bend strength and vinyl mode can all be adjusted here. There’s also an option to use a splitter cable and also an external mixer mode. Via the in app purchase (the same one that would unlock the extended FX) you also get USB audio sound card support (identical to the iPad version).
With all this activity I was worried that they had forgotten about the iOS platform but thankfully not! During the winter period they have also updated the iPad version of CrossDJ to bring multichannel audio via USB sound card support, external mixer mode and audio via Bluetooth. The arrival of the iPhone version of the app came as a surprise and certainly spices up the competition for high quality DJ apps on smaller iOS devices.
From using the app over the past couple of weeks, it feels like a quality app especially because of the good-sized buttons and the space dedicated to each feature. Unfortunately because the decks are obscured during use of these features it can prove to be frustrating, especially when you want to set hot cues accurately, but I guess that’s a result of squeezing in detailed functionality into a small screen space.
The arrival of the iPhone version of the app came as a surprise and certainly spices up the competition for high quality DJ apps on smaller iOS devices.
With the slightly larger screen space of an iPhone 5 or 5th generation iPod Touch you’ll see a black bar on the display at either side, so there’s the potential to display the pitch slider permanently (or something else) if using these devices.
As with the iPad version, there’s no Key Lock feature which may put some folk off. Midi support would also be a welcome addition in the future for both apps; I think the Vestax Spin2 would make a good match.
DJ apps that replicate hardware such as spinning vinyl or CDJ style interfaces are not to everyone’s taste, however they do represent what most budding DJs can easily recognise as being part of the “DJ” experience. Without Midi support I would be unlikely to use the app for anything more than casually forming mix ideas. If those two areas of functionality were implemented, I could see this being an effective and fun solution to any immediate small-scale party!
The big surprise is that the app is free. This will certainly cause a stir among other DJ app developers. The advanced features such as extended FX and detailed settings can be unlocked at the cost of US$2.99 which is good value for money. By being free, it will attract would-be DJs to take a closer look and possibly shift focus away from already established and popular DJ apps.
- Excellent interface design
- Detailed, high quality features
- Basic version is free
We don’t like:
- No Midi controller support
- No Key Lock
Ease of use:
Give CrossDJ for iPhone a go for free and let us know what you think! Is DJing on a smaller iOS device a step too far? Which features of CrossDJ would you like to see included that are currently missing on iOS? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
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