MixmoDJ is a new DJ app for iOS, which boldly claims to be the “first pro DJ app for iPad”. This is a brave stance to take considering it is new and going up against tough competition – a competition that has been in the market for some considerable time now.
The concept of the app is fairly simple on first look. It aims to replicate some key functionality familiar to most CD decks, but on the iPad (and also available in a trimmed-down version for the iPod Touch and iPhone).
The app presents a view of a single deck, so you would use this on an iDevice as a line input to a hardware mixer – like adding a CD deck to your setup. The single-deck approach is not unique to MixmoDJ and has been around for some time with other apps like DJ Player, djay, Traxpad and Touch the Wave (& TTW2).
The interface is relatively simple and based around the basic components of a CDJ layout. The screen is split into three main sections;
- Left hand side – containing Hot Bank (cues & loops) button control, track search (audio scrubbing) and the cue, play/pause buttons
- Central section – with the CDJ-style jogwheel complete with pitch slider, pitch bend buttons, loop buttons and pitch lock controls
- Top section – containing recently played tracks, current track detail (track title, artist, BPM, genre and album art) read from the music library with a track playing detail underneath followed by a waveform (only if you’re on the Pro version) and a number of app control buttons
Access to your tracks is currently through a standard small-sized window containing a trimmed down standard view of the iDevice music library. Unfortunately, this means that you can’t sort the songs listed and BPM data isn’t present; both are crucial features for more experienced DJs (or indeed most DJs).
I spoke to the development team about this: they are aware that these are key features on several quality DJ apps, and happily, they plan to revise their access to the Music Library in the future.
Initially, when I saw the large deck circle on the screen I thought: “Brilliant! At last, I have a decent amount of screen space to try and scratch something on an iPad.” However, I was a little disappointed to find that even in vinyl mode, the space for scratching is limited to the smaller inner circle on the deck.
I believe this is how CDJs work, so perhaps I shouldn’t be too upset. While the track is playing the outline of the inner circle appears to rotate. The outer edge of the deck is the jogwheel, performing the same action as the two pitch bend buttons underneath the deck.
Even if the whole deck had been available for use with scratching, the sound quality during any attempted scratching is glitchy, jumpy and heavily digitised.
You can control the speed of the loaded track through a few different routes, all standard on a CDJ. To just nudge the track a little faster or slow it a touch, you can either use the pitch bend buttons below the deck or use the outer section of the deck (like a jogwheel).
You can also opt to have the whole deck operate in “Jog Mode”. A good addition here would be the ability to configure the strength of the pitch bend controls as you can in other apps. The pitch fader is positioned (as on a CDJ) to the right of the deck and you can change the pitch increment using the +/- button above it.
Something to note is that there are some audio peculiarities when slowing the track down when using the pitch bend or jog dial. The first is that sometimes the sound tends to pitch up a little, certainly not something you expect as you reduce speed.
Secondly, it feels like there’s some time-stretching going on, with no means of switching it off! Instead of producing a smooth, lower-pitched sound at slower speeds, the audio gets chopped up and spread out. This is more pronounced if you increase the pitch increments (using the +/- button) to ‘WIDE’ (equal to +/- 100%). This was formerly an issue with the pitch slider in a previous version but has quickly been rectified, so hopefully, this will get tackled by the development team soon.
Above the deck control is the track listing detail, showing the detail coming from the Music Library on the device, be warned that the app recalculates the BPM of the track and uses this in the blue section. Ideally, if you’ve gone to the effort of calculating the BPM of your tracks you would want the app to save time and not bother recalculating again.
Another note of warning here is that the waveform display is only available in the Pro version of the app. The section is still present on the regular iPad version but is just an empty black bar. This feels like a huge step backwards since almost all DJ apps have a waveform of some sort displayed – even those very first apps like Quixpin which ran on older iDevices and iOS versions.
The “Hot Banks” are three cues or loops which are stored against the track. If you have the same track loaded on another iDevice with the app installed you should be able to copy the cue/loop data across via Bluetooth using the Sync button.
Ideally, this would behave like other DJ apps where you are trying to align BPMs between two decks. Hitting “Sync” on one device would adjust the track’s pitch to match the BPM of the track currently being played on the other device.
The MixmoDJ Pro version of the app seems to have difficulty running smoothly on the original iPad (which mine is), so the trimmed-down MixmoDJ iPad version should perform better. You’ll pay less for the app, but as a result will be missing features such as:
- Use of crates
- Setting & storing cue points
- Waveform display
- Storing loops
- Use of hot cues & hot loops in the crate
- Button colour customisation
The amount of functionality that gets dropped here is quite a surprise, especially when you compare with other DJ apps that run well on original iPads, of which there are millions out there.
See the end of this review for a full look at the versions available.
The MixmoDJ development team has updates planned for the app including:
- Twitter integration (presumably to tweet the tracks you’ve just played?)
- Revised music library access/display, hopefully, to provide sorting and BPM display
- Beat looping
- Syncing BPM data by Bluetooth (so deck B could have its pitch adjusted to match the speed of deck A)
The last one is something the team is currently looking into and is not a definite promise! Hopefully, any remaining issues regarding pitch control and stability will also be addressed too.
MixmoDJ is certainly not the first pro DJ app for iPad and in its current state, it has a little way to go to become an app that experienced DJs would turn to in a live environment. However, if the app provides the functionality currently being considered for future development and addresses the outstanding issues, it will certainly be a more professional DJ-focused app.
Unfortunately, the app has launched after a number of other key DJ apps have seen major updates and rework. Any groundbreaking new features that MixmoDJ may have been aiming to achieve (such as multiple cues, loops, syncing of data between devices) are now old news and have been implemented elsewhere.
However, none of the existing DJ apps ticked all the boxes immediately, so hopefully, in time we’ll see MixmoDJ flourish as it is developed further and improved. It’s a promising start.
MixmoDJ Lite has the same features as Mixmo DJ although the interface is considerably different in terms of layout and you only get two hot bank cues/loops.
*Both of these have a free demo version available too.
Do you like the idea of using your iPad as a “CDJ” in the DJ box? Can you see yourself every DJing with two iDevices in tandem plus a real club mixer? Are you tempted to try this over one of the other iDevice DJ systems? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.