Exclusive First Review: djay For iPhone & iPod Touch

Review Summary:

djay For iPhone & iPod Touch
djay for Ipod Touch & iPhone

Two record decks, a mixer and your whole record collection in the palm of your hand - it certainly looks good, but can you really DJ properly on an iPhone? Pic: Geeky Gadgets/DDJT

Review: djay For iPhone & iPod Touch

djay for iPhone & iPod Touch brings this acclaimed Mac and iPad DJ platform to the iPhone and iPod Touch for the first time. Here, Digital DJ Tips presents the very first full hands-on review of this potentially game-changing software. Does it represents a true leap forwards in ultra-portable DJing, or is it one shrink job too far?

As with all apps, buying via iTunes is a cinch. And upon opening the app for the first time, our first impression of this product can be summed up in one word: slick. Algoriddim - the company behind the djay range of software - has always released beautiful-looking products with the emphasis on ease of use, and djay for iPhone carries on the tradition.

The animation, the graphics, the integration with iTunes, the way you get two decks in horizontal mode and one in vertical mode, the auto deck switching on-screen when you pull the crossfader across, the quick search of iTunes... all of these functions immediately alert you to how this product has been designed to be simple and fun to use.

Your first 90 seconds with it will certainly elicit a "wow!" reaction: It's immediately clear that this is going to feel great in use. But the question is, does it hold up as a genuine DJ platform?

In use

You load tracks using a drop-down that accesses the iTunes library that's already on your iPhone - no need to separately upload tunes for djay, as was the case with earlier iPhone DJ/music apps. (This takes advantage of recent improvements in the operating system.) You can sort by playlist, artist, song, album or genre, and there's also a fast search box. Analysed songs have their BPMs displayed while navigating the catalogue.

There's autocue for the start of your songs (you can also manually set the cue point), and once you load a tune, just as with the other versions of the software, the virtual deck, complete with cover art, begins to spin in time, with the tone arm showing where you are on the record.

djay for iPhone EQ

Gain and EQ are handled by one of three control screens, all of which are accessed by tapping a button to the side of each deck.

You can scratch just by putting your finger on the record and wiggling it, and when you do, the waveform at the top of the screen - which shows the full track usually - zooms smoothly right in so you can see the exact part of the track you're scratching. Really neat. You can even perform perfectly good sounding spinbacks on the device!

Next to the waveforms (which have a red line showing you where you are in the track) are L/R VU meters for each deck, plus song information and time counters.

Turning the device vertically focuses on the active deck only, with the numbers "1" and "2" appearing either side of the crossfader - tapping them then switches decks. Also, moving the crossfader to a deck automatically switches the visual focus to that deck.

Control screens
Each side has a button that flips the deck out of the way, replacing it with one of three easily-selectable windows of controls, which are for BPM, EQ and looping. You can manually adjust the BPM (there's a big Technics-style pitch fader, naturally) or just hit the ubiquitous sync button. There are nudges too for getting things in phase. If the device is horizontal, these controls take the place of the deck that isn't active.

djay for iPhone iTunes library

The tune library - note the BPM that appears next to tracks that have previously been analysed.

The EQ screen gives you faders for lo, mid and hi plus a gain for each side, and the looping section has a block of buttons for looping lengths from 1/32nd of a beat to multiple bars, which are already beatmatched for you.

What's more, you can slide your finger around the grid, so for instance you could start a one-beat loop then slide to two beats, down to the fraction loops, to give a pretty unique-to-touchscreen effect. There is also a separate loop screen that lets you halve or double the current loop length. A loops shows as a translucent block on the track's waveform. "Bounce loop" is like a beat masher - a nice touch.

Mixing and monitoring
Just as with the iPad version, there is no true stereo monitoring, but Algoriddim has got around this by offering a split output, so with the correct DJ splitter cable, you can plug your device into both an external sound system and a pair of headphones - the music will come out of all channels in both, but of course it will be in mono.

If you don't want to mix manually, there's an automix setting which lets you choose a source playlist, decide if you want the songs to be played in order or shuffled, and pick a transition type. If you choose automix, you can also use AirPlay to stream the music to Apple TV, your AirPort Express station, or any AirPort dock - of course, real-time mixing is out of the equation if you do as there's a delay involved once you "go wireless".

Finally, there's a record function, so incredibly, you could actually perform and record a full DJ mix with nothing more than this device. Recordings can be retrieved in iTunes on your laptop PC.

What's missing?
It feels almost churlish to start listing wanna-haves on DJ software for a phone! However, a couple more cues and some rudimentary effects (maybe even just a filter) would be good, as would the ability to sort by BPM when searching for music. Extra columns when in horizontal mode, like grouping, key or comments, would also be useful.

Watch a video demo

Conclusion

I think djay is the first app that truly nails DJing on the iPhone and iPod Touch. It was always likely to, due to the well-received Mac and iPad software from the same company, but for some reason on a phone it is a real eye-opener. Maybe it's because for the first time, you literally need nothing else at all with you to DJ. Nothing!

djay for iPhone real vinyl

Turning your device vertically allows you to zoom in to each individual deck.

Now, you can be sat on a bus, or in an airport, and on popping a pair of headphones on you can review music, work out mixes, record the results... we've come from 40kg of kit that takes up a room and costs thousands, to doing exactly the same thing on the 140g phone in your pocket, in less that 10 years.

djay for iPhone is like iTunes on steroids for the digital DJ generation, and it may just change the way you listen to your music on your iPhone for good.

After all, you can open this instead of iTunes, select an album, artist or playlist, and hit "play" just like you would with iTunes, but the difference is you can dive in any time you want and take over the mix, effectively changing your role from music consumer to DJ and back again whenever you want.

I'd be as bold to say that apps like this may just be the future of music consumption on the go. It's all down to the ease of use, and the fun factor: It looks good, it works well, and what's more it's perfectly possible with one small adaptor cable to plug it in to a proper stereo and rock a party on it too. Really, if we rewind just two or three years, this would be utterly unbelievable. In 2011, it's merely amazing.

Product Summary

Review Summary:

djay For iPhone & iPod Touch

Are you tempted by this app? Would you consider DJing a party on your phone? Can you see this replacing iTunes as your music player of choice when out and about? And do you think soon, "everyone will be a DJ" thanks to apps like this? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Comments

  1. I'm definitely getting it just for the sake of being able to do this on an iphone! Like you say, you can be on a bus or whatever &be mixing just with your phone! Even just as a gadget to prepare which tunes your going to use in your set later when you got on your cdjs/controller/decks etc.

    Maybe if they made the new iphone & ipad have more channels, then you can see where this is going. Maybe 10 yrs from now peoples whole studios will be in a phone, which you connect to your outboard & it becomes the heart of your dj/production studio.

  2. Have they fixed the pitch shifting yet? The ipad version was unusable if you tried to pitch shift as squirrel vocals sound terrible.
    Still a 'fun' program but professionals need not apply. Touch screens mean we need to reimagine everything about input and emulating a record on a screen is silly.

    • Phil Morse says:

      All tempo adjustments on all kit result in "squirrel vocals" if you push them too far, just like speeding a real record up will do the same. There's nothing to be fixed - it's one of the truths of DJing.

      The alternative is to have key locking (which this software doesn't have). That keeps the same pitch whatever the tempo. However, that brings its own problems with it, as once you stray too far from the original tempo, the music can sound unnatural and sometimes plain awful.

      Bottom line: Mix tunes with a similar tempo and use pitch controls to then match them exactly.

  3. dj distraction says:

    What happens when you're in the middle of a mix and then you receive a phone call?

  4. I love how the iphone app has a waveform and the mac program doesn't :(

  5. Hands down its a brilliant achievement to put this much functionality into a smart phone app.

    However, does anyone else find these apps just a little too pricey though? I mean the iPad version is $20. When you think of the amount of effort that went into the Garage Band software and the fact that it retails for just $5.

    Having paid a king's ransom for the 'Touch Dj' app last year and found the experience was next to unusable I would hesitate before getting this until I read more feedback.

  6. Having just got an iPhone for my birthday this proved irresistible.

    First impressions are great - very responsive, I was up and mixing in no time.

    Only one minor niggle (and in no way should this stop anyone from buying it) - the gain and eq controls appear to cause audio to distort (clip) if pushed above the mid point, so you have to be careful to always cut eq; switching off the "reset eq" option and starting with the gain controls below the mid point gives headroom to play with.

    Boy is it fun though.

    Having mixed at house parties before using two ipods and the source select switch on a home hifi amp (!), I can instantly see when I might use it...

  7. I see this app as a backup for a club or a wedding in case you main laptop takes a dump (Kernel or Blue screen). I'm not a fan of mixtape backup so this should serve me well. Like owen said. I will wait for more feedback before plopping down the cash.

  8. Chris Jennings says:

    I could see this for the gym where I just plug in a playlist of very similar BPM music instead of my normal podcast.

  9. JonnyFlash says:

    I just downloaded it today and then loaded my ipod with tracks as opposed to the dj mixes that are normally on it. And the app is just like the DJay app on the iPad just shrunk by about 75%. The only downfall is the scratching is difficult with larger fingers. I think this will be sloved and the app will be much more usable on the ipod touch and iphone once Numark releases there iDJ Live controller.

  10. velveeta tease says:

    I was about to buy a second lap top for backup. Perhaps this is the way to go instead. Any thoughts on that? Thanks.

    • Phil Morse says:

      You mean to have as a backup system if your laptop crashes when gigging? Seems like a good idea - mind you don't end up using the iPad instead of your laptop out of preference though... 😉

  11. Cue Play DJ is pretty good, I think it looks a more complete experience than this too. Track loading maybe not as smooth though.

  12. velveeta tease says:

    My eyes ain't is good as they used to be. So, being that the iPhone is very small, I can't use it. Otherwise, it's awesome for the young whipper snappers. I'll stick to 8-track tapes.

  13. JonnyFlash says:

    I wonder if you can use the Ion Discover DJ with a USB to 30 pin converter with this app now or if we have to wait for the Numark iDJ Live to come out. They appear to be exactly the same except for the connection.

  14. Interesting to see that even apple apps aren't good all around.

    I got an Android (S2) and was fiddling with 2 Dj apps for that plattform just to find out they are not ready yet.

    For the time being those are just on toy level no more.
    The ones that looked the most promising to me and which i gave a try so far were DJ Droid and DjStudio both having serious glitches & bugs that would stop one from seriously using them to even just mess around when you got no mixer / pro software with you and just want to prep a crate for your next set.

    DjStudio features the better GUI but also more bugs / glitches like failing to analyze tracks BPM correctly or allowing to pitch 2 tracks in a precise way. Now i could live without manual pitching tracks had the app a working synch button but thats not the case.

    Droid Dj has a 3-way split interface and some other problems to it. While the waveform display is way better than what DJStudio offers it comes without sync button but the 2 tracks can be at least pitched manually (more or less). Problem with doing it manually on Droid DJ is that one already has a problem setting / adjusting BMP's of the track you want to mix in and there is only a tapping feature to tap along an thus find out BPM's and set and adjust them for the following track to mix in and even that one doesnt seem to work as it should.
    Plus the tracks tend to not stay snyched once they've been pichted. Good though is that while one might expect a trainwreck when looking at waveform it doesnt sound as bad as DJStudio when mixed together.
    Another problem is the extremly long time it takes Droid DJ to load a track and analyze it. Now i'm spinning trance with most tracks like 6 - 9 mins duration which allows for a bit of extra time for loading and analyzing track but if u favour other styles lets say e.g house with shorter tracks like somewhat around 3 - 5 mins u might run out of time when loading next track.
    So these Apps still have to grow seriously IMO.

    Maybe Digital Dj Tips will take on testing Android DJ Apps as well somtime soon - certainly would be interesting for all Android users out there since these already outnumber iphone users.

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