How To Use An iPad As A DVS System

DVS With An iPad?

A great technical feat...DVS functionality working with an iPad.

Well who'd have thought it? The humble iPad, the butt of many DJs jokes (many of whom should know better, as they use laptops themselves!) has grown into a truly capable DJing platform. Not only do Algoriddim and Native Instruments shift millions of copies of djay and Traktor DJ respectively, but then relative minnow DJ Player wades in with the trick to trump them all: Digital vinyl.

Yup, that's right, one of the headline features of the latest release of this iPad software is the ability to hook it up to good old fashioned record decks and control vinyl and DJ away like it's good ol' 1988. But how well does it work? And is it a viable set-up for serious use? That's what we set out to find out today.

The path to iOS DVS

DVS - the use of a "timecode" signal to manipulate digital audio files on a computer using traditional DJ hardware - has been around for years with laptop DJ programs, providing a means to use your existing set-up but enjoy some of the benefits of digital DJing. This kind of thing felt beyond iOS DJ set-ups, though - that is, until last year when Apple announced multi-route audio functionality in its iOS 6 update; this was instantly picked up by app developers as a way to implement stereo master and stereo cueing functionality via an external USB sound card. iMect (the development team behind DJ Player), though, had bigger plans and quickly announced that DJ Player could be used with timecode vinyl or CD.

The major challenge was finding a USB class-compliant sound card that handled the necessary number of inputs and outputs (four in, four out for a traditional two-deck set-up) that you would need. For CD decks, then your choices were limited to a few (such as the Omnitronic DDI 4x4), and for turntables the choice was pretty much a big round zero.

Funnily enough, the breakthrough came from an unlikely source, iMect's competitor Native Instruments, which earlier this year updated the firmware for its Traktor 6 and 10 sound cards, making them USB class compliant. While this was mainly to give Traktor DJ users a way of getting the stereo master and stereo cueing functionality, these two sound cards also accept phono inputs, which finally meant DJ Player's potential as a digital vinyl system could be fully realised relatively simply.

What you need

Interested in experimenting? OK, before you can get started with DVS and iOS, you're going to need the following:

  • Traditional (legacy) DJ equipment – We're talking turntables (or CD decks) and a mixer
  • USB class-compliant sound card with four inputs and four outputs – Remember, if you’re using turntables you will need four phono inputs. The USB audio sound card will need an independent power supply; you cannot power the sound card from the iOS device
  • Camera Connection Kit (CCK) – This will allow you to connect a USB hardware to your iOS device
  • An iOS device running iOS6 or above and the latest version of the DJ Player app - If you’re on iOS 7 then smaller iOS devices (such as iPhones) will work as Apple have unlocked the use of the CCK on these
  • DVS media – vinyl or timecode CDs. Avoid using Traktor 2 timecode vinyl, they don’t work consistently with DJ Player at the moment

Get connected & configured

Here's the procedure to follow to get connected:

  1. Connect your turntables (or CD decks) to the inputs of the USB sound card, taking note of the USB audio channels being used. For Traktor Audio 6, the left deck goes into channels 3 & 4 and the right deck goes into channels 5 & 6
  2. Connect your USB sound card outputs to the line inputs on your mixer, make sure you connect these up properly otherwise you could end up with the wrong deck on a mixer channel
  3. Connect your USB sound card to your iOS device using the CCK
  4. Connect your USB sound card to the power supply and switch on
DJ Player Output Settings Page

Setting up DJ Player for use with an external sound card.

Once that's all done, you’re ready to dive into DJ Player and make the couple of configuration changes you need to get going. Press Shift then the Settings button (at the top, centre of the page) to go into the configuration pages of DJ Player.

Output settings
Press on the Output button. DJ Player will recognise that a sound card is connected and display a summary of this at the bottom of the page. On the Output page, you need to select "2 Decks" – this means that you will be using an external hardware mixer with DJ Player. Ensure that deck A and deck B have their outputs set correctly (you will need to refer to those numbers on the back of your sound card – for Traktor Audio 6 the left deck is three and four, the right deck is five and six).

At this point, you can go back to the deck screen and play back a loaded track on each deck – the audio should be fed from DJ Player on your iOS device over USB through the sound card and into the correct channels on your mixer. If not, you probably have the wrong USB channels selected or possibly you've made a mistake in your connections – worth checking again!

DVS settings
Back in the settings page, press the DVS button. In here you tell DJ Player that you want to run the app in DVS mode and will be controlling the basic playback functions (start/stop) and pitch control via an external source (turntable or CD deck). This configuration has been centralised and simplified with the latest version of DJ Player. At the bottom of the page you can select which of the four decks in DJ Player you want to have under the control of DVS functionality.

In my set-up, I’ve got deck A set to "TT 1" and deck B set to "TT 2". Once these are selected, you’ll see a small monitor bar appear for each deck on the screen. This shows the input signal coming from your chosen sources. The detail at the top of the page for frequency and threshold can be adjusted as desired to ensure that your DVS setup is tailored to your hardware and your lightness of touch.

DJ Player DVS Settings

Configuring DJ Player to interpret a DVS signal.

If you prefer a fast spinning deck then you can choose to have the 45rpm button set to "Yes" In my experience most DJs using DVS will be using 33rpm and therefore this button should be set to "No". If you’re using a Traktor sound card then set the "Reverse" button to "Yes". I’m not sure why Traktor is set up this way, but without this your audio will playback in reverse!

Once these two settings pages are adjusted, DJ Player should operate as any other DVS software. You can still use the iOS device for applying multiple FX, playing with loops, cues and all the other great features within the app. You’ll notice that the pitch sliders and cross fader are removed from the main deck screen, which makes sense as you’ve chosen to use external hardware to control these things.

Your choice of USB sound card and timecode may affect some of these settings. I’m using a pair of Serato timecode vinyl which work perfectly.

FAQ

The functionality has been in the app for a year now, but it's still a bit of a Wild West. Here are some common questions;

  1. Which timecodes are supported? - Theoretically every timecode is supported, including Serato and Virtual DJ. Users have had problems with the Traktor 2 so far, so best to avoid for the time being
  2. Q2: Does this work with any CD deck, even budget ones? - Yes, this works with any CD deck. A DVS signal is a really simple thing; it's basically just a sine wave on both L and R channels, but 90 phase difference between them. Anything which can play a sine wave is capable of outputting a DVS signal. The "timecodes" inside the DVS signal are just small modifications of the sine wave
  3. Q3: What does the bar on the DVS screen show? - The DVS bar shows the signal level. It's a simple VU meter, becoming brighter if the level is above a threshold you set (so DJ Player is "tracking"), and red if the level is too hot (the sine wave distorts - although even this is well tolerated)

And to the future?

iMect has thrown down the gauntlet here, getting one step ahead of everyone else, at least in this area. The reason this is successful is down to the quality of the sound from DJ Player; even the slowest movements sound good and consistent. While I haven't had the chance to use it in a live situation yet, I have been behind my decks more frequently as a result, which is always good news. If you’re a DJ who learned the craft on traditional hardware, then the advent of DVS functionality on iOS may help you jump into digital DJing with relative ease.

For instance, if you find DJing on controllers a little fiddly on smaller jogwheels, then DVS with turntables gives you much more room for hand movements during scratching. The great thing here is that this functionality is available to everyone, no matter what turntable or CD deck you have. You’re not chained to using a particular model or brand. You’re not even tied to using a particular sound card or timecode. This is a refreshing change in a world where manufacturers are quick to pin DJs to their way of doing things.

Ideally, there would be a greater choice of USB class-compliant sound cards out there, and in a perfect Apple-friendly environment we would have a dedicated four-in, four-out DJ sound card with a 30pin/lightning connector to eliminate the risk of CCK suspension of use. But even as it is, it's great. Using my iPad in conjunction with my turntables is something I have longed for since my first iOS purchase, and finally it’s here. It suddenly feels like my journey on iOS is coming to an exciting conclusion, as the technology and apps blossom together into a mature, inclusive DJ set-up that could soon make DJing from laptops appear very old-fashioned.

We'll keep our ears open for a response from the big boys in this field: My guess is that we may see DVS control coming to Traktor DJ in 2014 at last. Maybe Rane will also make its Serato USB interfaces class compliant?

• Try DJ Player free at App Store (DVS functionality is accessible via an in-app payment).

Video

 

Are you a traditional DJ considering moving to DVS? Are you an iOS DJ now considering a DVS set-up? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. I would imagine 16 and 32GB iPads wouldn’t be able to store a huge amount of songs. Any solution on connecting to an external hard drive?

    • Hi Fugi,
      You’re right that iOS devices have a limited space available when compared with laptops and external hard drives…however, with DJ Player you have DropBox and Deezer support so you don’t need to have all your tracks on the device, maybe just the core library perhaps?

      Speaking as a vinyl-dinosaur, the iPad storage still beats carting 5-6 crates of records between gigs.

      Maybe one day iOS will get external HD support, but for now I wouldn’t hold my breath!

    • There are 64 and 128gb iPads. Should be more than enough even for wedding/request type DJs. I’m currently (and for some time) using a 64gb iPad + controller to play and my music collection takes about 35gb, only high-quality 320kbps mp3 from all genres, evennin-dance, listen-on-the-road-and-at-home ones.

      I’m a club DJ but I play radio, gigs, festivals and even the occasional (and inevitable) wedding, and never really missed anything. I believe a carefully built collection, coupled with criterious pre-planning, with some classics thrown in, could fit a 32gb with some space to spare. Unless you only play wav or aiff and absolutely must, have everything, of course..

  2. Hey guys. Do you know if it supports audio 8 dj ? – the older traktor sound card.
    It is really cool idea and I can imagine myself traveling to a gig with ipad + 2 records haha

  3. Samuel Villagomez says:

    Hi i already have a numark idj pro, but i really want to use DVS and my controler (2 decks for turn table and other two with controller) the Numark N4 have phono inputs for turntable, the question is if i can use “something” to give two phono inputs to my controller to have DVS or if i can use DVS with NI audio 6 but i steel use mi IDJ PRO to control the other 2 decks.

  4. Soul Fabulous says:

    The current NI firmware update is available for the following devices.

    Fw47 for TRAKTOR AUDIO 6
    Fw48 for TRAKTOR AUDIO 10
    Fw27 for TRAKTOR KONTROL S2
    Fw42 for TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2
    Fw11 for TRAKTOR KONTROL F1
    Fw8 for TRAKTOR KONTROL Z1
    Fw11 for TRAKTOR KONTROL X1 MK2
    Fw45 for KOMPLETE AUDIO 6
    Fw55 for MASCHINE Mikro
    Fw8 for MASCHINE Mikro MK2
    Fw26 for MASCHINE MK2
    Fw64 for TRAKTOR KONTROL S2 MK2
    Fw65 for TRAKTOR KONTROL S4 MK2
    New Firmware versions in this update
    Fw64 for TRAKTOR KONTROL S2 MK2
    Fw65 for TRAKTOR KONTROL S4 MK2

    For all S2 & Z2 users here are the changes.

    TRAKTOR KONTROL S2

    – Improved support with USB 3.0 on Windows 7 and Windows 8
    – TRAKTOR KONTROL S2 is now compatible with iPad running iOS 6.0 or higher via Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit or Lightning to USB Camera Adapter (Audio functionality only)
    TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2

    – TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2 is now compatible with iPad running iOS 6.0 or higher via Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit or Lightning to USB Camera Adapter

  5. Does anyone know if the timecode support is for relative mode only, or does ist also support absolute mode?

    • I think I read somewhere that it’s relative only. But when you have a waveform on a touchscreen in front of you, that’s probably more efficient for scrubbing through tunes anyway….

    • Estivel M says:

      It’s is just relative mode

    • Yeah, we didn’t spent energies into absolute mode, as using the touchscreen (and maybe some MIDI mapped cue buttons), navigating is way easier than with the needle.

  6. Article is all about my forum question. Great stuff, can’t wait to try this

  7. Is it possible to use DJ Player with serato SL-1 or Rane TTM-57, or only with NI soundcards?

  8. hey guys.
    im using pioneer ddj sx with serato and ver very happy with it . but now i want to use serato vedio softwere do i have to pay for it or is it available for serato users.
    thanks a lot for the help.

  9. If the rumored iPads with the 12″ screen surface next year I predict we will start seeing a lot more of these devices in use.

  10. dr. devILL says:

    Would a usb splitter solve the the song library issue? is there a way to access song files on a usb drive, while still have the dj player app open and the audio 6 occupying the other port?

  11. What would be really cool is if DJ Player releases an app for Google Glass in the future. Then you could plug in your iphone and have the screen mirrored in your glasses. This would exponentially help you read the crowd instead of focusing on the device.

  12. Try 2 connect : a z2- updated( from NI) – NOT SUPPORTED

    Connect my rane sixty eight : NOT SUPPORTED

    connect my DDJ SX – NOT SUPPORTED

    WHY ? Or how to make it run on ios 6.2 ?

  13. hi there
    I’m using Traktor audio 10 (with the updated firmware) with Technics mk2 and Serato timecode vinyls on it. Full app is running on my ipad4 but I have still got some issues with adjusting the pitch. When I got the right speed and put the track back into the beginning and start the mix it just starts fall to pieces and sometimes it starts almost 2% faster or slower and you have to change the tempo again…
    The other thing is the sensitivity. Sometimes I touch the wheel and nothing happens than shortly slows down or speeds up. Anyway its much more different as djing with the traktor scratch setup because when i’m djing with the traktor scratch there aren’t things like that…
    Anyone has experiences with it…?

  14. Kenneth Marrou says:

    Anyone know if it works with a mixer w/ an internal VDJ soundcard?

  15. if it (the vdj soundcard) is class compliant, it will work. If it needs drivers, it will not.

    Anyway the absolute mode is a must!!!!! Who the hell has time to muck around on the small screen in the middle of the party while hands on decks/mixer (like a dj should, you know)? You could needle drop to the right place about 4 times as quick and W A Y more accurately..
    I also never mark cue points on tracks (keeps the records clean) and it’s boring and redundant.
    Switching between the decks/mixer and a screen to make a damn CUE (srsly?!) is just absolutely KILLING the flow so this needs to be fixed asap.
    If this is dealt with, we might have a serious contender to SSL.

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