Review: RekordKrate for iPad

Review Summary:

RekordKrate is firmly aimed at pro / semi-pro DJs who use USBs (or CDs) to DJ on "DJ booth" gear. It's great for DJ's who carefully organize all their CDs, USB sticks or playlists.

RekordKrate
  • RekordKrate
  • Rating: 4
  • From: Ian Ellis
  • Price: $12.99
  • Reviewed by:
  • On February 8, 2013
  • Last modified:February 12, 2014
RekordKrate for iPad

RekordKrate a new iOS app to assist with choosing that next track in the mix.

Review: RekordKrate for iPad

It’s a long time since DJs moved away from well-thumbed record boxes as their music library system. Nowadays, laptop and iOS DJs, of course, tend to select their tunes through lists, virtual crates, smart crates and so on. But for pro and semi-pro DJs playing from USBs plugged in to CDJs in dark clubs, all they had to replace their lovingly packed record boxes were small LCD displays on CDJ players.

The new RekordKrate app aims to put some of the big-screen library navigating power enjoyed by laptop DJs into the hands of USB (and CD) DJs, by allowing them to use their iPads (and soon iPhones and Android devices) to browse their music libraries easily. Crucially, it also allows them to quickly choose a next song based on harmonic key and BPM.

RekordKrate has been developed by Ian Ossia (resident DJ at UK superclub Renaissance from 1992-2002), and was borne out of frustration at the limited space on CDJ display screens. It doesn’t play any audio, and it doesn’t display any waveforms or artwork; it is solely for use as a “DJ guidance system” during a mix.

In use

To get started with RekordKrate you first need to process your tracks through Pioneer’s rekordBox on a PC or Mac. Why recordBox and not Traktor, Serato, VDJ or even iTunes, you might ask? The answer is key detection. If you’re not aware, Pioneer’s free rekordbox software introduced key detection in version 2.0.1, rather quietly, last year.

(By the way, if you want to use RekordKrate and you’re a Mac Traktor user, you can use the RekordBuddy app to sync your Traktor and rekordBox databases, keeping things clean and simple. Full Traktor support will be available in the next version.)

RekordKrate - Choose Playlists Screen

Defining which playlists to include in search results.

Once your tracks have been processed, you export your database, connect up your iOS device and using app file sharing, and copy the database into the area for RekordKrate. As RekordKrate opens for the first time, it processes the imported database, looking at BPM and key information.

On first load this may take a while depending on how many tracks your database contains; however, I threw over 1,000 tracks into it creating a database that was about 547k in size, and RekordKrate took a matter of seconds to process this information during first load, which felt incredibly quick.

Once the app has loaded, you can choose which playlists are active. The orange button at the top of the column will set all playlists on or off; you can then add / remove playlists as required. If you’ve got each of your USB sticks or CD wallets listed as playlists, this would allow you to easily tell the app which items you have with you at the gig.

So let’s say that your DJ set is in full swing. You’ve started out well, playing a few tried and tested mixes, blending a handful of tracks that you know inside out. Everything is good! But then you notice that the track you’re currently playing is not actually not going down as well on the dancefloor as you’d hoped.

The idea of rekordKrate is that you’d reach over for your iOS device and use the search box at the top of the app to quickly find the track you’re currently playing. (At the moment, the search box works best for one word searching and it includes Artist, Title and Genre in the search. The next version of the app will improve the search functionality.)

RekordKrate - Search Results Page

Searching for a track in RekordKrate is instant and simple.

The current track page results can be displayed in the original playlist order or sorted by Track, Artist, Genre or a combination of key and BPM.

Tap on the track that is currently playing and the “Mix Options” page is be displayed, showing you a list of tracks which are harmonically compatible with your chosen track, taking into account the BPM difference (so “master key” or “key lock” is not required in order for key matching to work). The list shows the tracks which are the best match for BPM and key combination nearest the top. (You can choose whether the mix options look at your entire collection, the active playlists or just the playlist that your current track is in.)

Once you’ve decided which track you’re going to play next, you tap the track detail on the screen, from where you can choose to navigate directly into the playlist in which that track resides. This is particularly useful if your playlists correspond to physical media, as it therefore assists you not only in selecting the next track but also in locating which USB drive (or CD) that track is stored on.

Conclusion

RekordKrate is firmly aimed at pro / semi-pro DJs who use USBs (or CDs) to DJ on “DJ booth” gear. These are also the types of DJs who would definitely spend the necessary time tagging their music correctly, and carefully organising their CDs, USB sticks or playlists (this is a data-driven app and will only ever be as good as the data entered into it).

For USB DJs it is easy to see its value. If you’re a CD DJ, you could possibly rip CDs by harmonic key and write BPM data on the sleeves – but taking this manual approach will mean you would need to do a lot of work when ripping your CDs, as well as a lot of reading of sleeve notes in dark clubs. rekordKrate is a more elegant solution to “crate digging” in this case too.

Dave Seaman with RekordKrate (Panama - Jan 2013)

Dave Seaman using RekordKrate at a gig in Panama in Jan 2013.

Even software DJs could potentially use RekordKrate as a standalone app, although similar results can be reached through the careful use of tools like Serato’s “smart crates” to sort tunes automatically into harmonic and BPM bands. For me, I wouldn’t use it to solely guide me through an entire set but it certainly threw up some track suggestions which I wouldn’t have ordinarily considered.

It’s worth noting that the very newest Pioneer CDJs have wireless rekordBox compatibility with mobile apps, which certainly duplicates some of the features of rekordKrate, and also that some rekordKrate-like features are also available to users of Denon’s Engine iOS helper software for its own CDJ players.

As mentioned, the next version of the app is currently in review and should be available soon in the App Store. This will allow Traktor users to directly export their database into the app without using RekordBox. If you’re a Serato user, you can convert your Serato database into Traktor format as described on the Native Instruments forum. Of course, neither Traktor nor Serato calculate harmonic key data so this is only of real use if you’ve processed your tracks through key detection software such as Mixed In Key as well.

There’s a demo video on the RekordKrate website as well as a user guide. The iPad version of the app is currently in the app store and an iPhone version will follow around mid-February.

Update (20.02.2013): The RekordKrate Mini is now available in the app store for iPhone and iPod Touch.

Product Summary

Review Summary:

RekordKrate is firmly aimed at pro / semi-pro DJs who use USBs (or CDs) to DJ on "DJ booth" gear. It's great for DJ's who carefully organize all their CDs, USB sticks or playlists.

RekordKrate
  • RekordKrate
  • Rating: 4
  • From: Ian Ellis
  • Price: $12.99
  • Reviewed by:
  • On February 8, 2013
  • Last modified:February 12, 2014

Are you a rekordBox user? If so, are you tempted by RekordKrate? What price would you pay for RekordKrate assistance during your DJ set? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. DJ Forced Hand says:

    So RecordKrate is a physical location file reminder (Dude, where’s my copy of Oakenfold’s “Ready, Steady Go”?) plus smart folders? Please tell me that you can also add notes to cue points or even set cue points on tracks while previewing them inside the program. The omission of key detection doesn’t help sell this program, which seems to have a narrow market… which is probably why it’s only $14.

  2. Ian Ossia says:

    I think you have missed the point slightly, which is understandable as its not quite like anything else. Apart from the far superior way to navigate your collection, what is special about the app is instantaneous presentation of every track that will mix perfectly harmonically with the track you are playing. It uses a totally different method to mixed in key and, as I’m sure the reviewer will validate, gives amazing results in this respect, and doesn’t rely on master tempo but gives organic matches.

    • Can definitely see the worth in this for USB DJs, like our reviewer says. I have a query though. If it relies on third-party key detection, I’d be interested to know how it then applies a different method to suggest harmonic matches. With MIK etc, it is of course possible to determine related keys as well as the same key. What is the “organic” or “different” thing that’s going on here?

      • I don’t really see how it can improve in mixing by relative major/minor and following the circle of 5ths/4ths.

      • I think there’s something that I haven’t made totally clear…RekordKrate will generate key matching tracks WITHOUT using Keylock/Master Tempo, unlike for example mixed in key. As I’ve been key mixing for 20 years (originally using vinyl, which obviously doesn’t have Keylock), that’s how my formula has been developed. Keylock in my experience has an adverse affect on both the sound quality and the timing of tracks so personally I don’t use it. The set of results obtained using this method is totally different to those obtained using the Keylock method and matching tracks can actually span 8 different keys. The results are tracks that will fit ‘naturally’ together with no artificial pitch modification. The maths involved is far too complex (and stressful) to be worked out in your head during a set, even if you are Steven Hawking, and even if you could you would be hard pressed to find those matches quickly on the screen of a CDJ with the limited screen size size and information available. Having those matches instantly presented to you is, believe me, a godsend.
        Having said that I will be putting an option to use Master Tempo mode into RekordKrate in the next week or so for those who are used to that method. I believe the results using my method are far superior, but it will be good to have the option as they will both provide different result.

  3. Ian Ossia says:

    Mixed in key doesn’t take into account bpm. For example, A track in F can match tracks in E and F# depending on the bpm difference.

    • Ah right, now it makes perfect sense – thanks.

      • Ian Ossia says:

        In fact , key F for example can actually match 8 keys including itself. Even using it with mixed in key codes will get you a lot more results, instantly and automatically. There is another way I have ‘bent’ things slightly to extend the results, but I don’t want to give that away.

  4. Ian Ossia says:

    There were 3 reasons why key detection in the app was unnecessary and counterproductive:

    1. Pioneers key detection algorithm is quite simply brilliant, with well over 90% accuracy in my tests, and when it is wrong it’s off by a fifth or fourth so still a harmonically matching key
    2. Analysts on the app would require having all the tracks on the app. Currently it stands alone requiring only a data file
    3. Processing key detection on an iPad iPhone would be very very slow. The app had to be lightening fast in all respects to be good at a gig

  5. I think this is a really good idea,I use traktor but at some gigs I just use usb sticks at these sort of gigs this app would be great.I like the compatible mix suggestions that it generates as well.For anyone using usb or cds this is very good indeed.Can this be used on a laptop so that you could run traktor or whatever and just tab it on or off to find those mix suggestions?

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