Designed for 64-bit (ie recent) iPads, including the iPad Pro with which it works seamlessly with the Smart Keyboard, djay Pro for iPad is as fully featured as practically any desktop DJ software, with four decks, video streaming, 20 million 320kbps streaming tunes, and a whole lot more – a huge achievement for a v1. If it gets some library usability tweaks and some pro hardware integrations, it’ll be truly amazing.
First Impressions / Setting up
We reviewed the app on an iPad Pro, with the Apple Smart Keyboard, which is the hardware that shows it off the best, although it will work with any modern iPad – no accessories needed. It really is designed for the 64-bit architecture of the latest devices, though (after all, it’s capable of outputting two 4K video streams alongside four audio channels, as we’ll see…).
Anyone who’s used a Microsoft Surface and liked it will know what a lot of the appeal is going to be here with djay Pro for the iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard; you’re getting the convenience of a tablet, with the usability (and power) of a laptop. So from a DJ’s point of view, the possibilities revolve around running a powerful, professional DJ system with less fuss, and on simple-to-use, convenient hardware. djay Pro takes full use of the expansive real estate of the iPad Pro, with gorgeous, pristine graphics and smooth animation. It puts most laptops to shame.
You install the software as with any app, and on launch you’re shown a clean two-deck layout. In a break from all previous Algoriddim apps, there are no renderings of “real” record decks and tonearms here; instead, you get two flat “platters”, more like those found in Serato DJ. The overall impression is more modern, and more “serious”.
You have several options when it comes to actually DJing with this. The first is just to play away, maybe with a Bluetooth or Airplay speaker – for auto playlists, parties, practice, or casual use, that’s fine. But while Algoriddim is claiming extremely low latency for Airplay, serious DJs will nonetheless want wired speakers and headphones.
As with any iPad DJ app, your choices are now to use a simple splitter cable (works fine in non-pro environments), an audio interface (such as the Griffin DJ Connect, which is made for the job), or go the “whole hog” and use djay Pro with a DJ controller designed to work with Algoriddim apps, such as the Reloop Beatpad or Beatpad 2, Pioneer DDJ-WeGO3 or Numark iDJ Pro. (Note though that with all of these products, the best hardware to use remains a “standard” iPad, not the iPad Pro, as these products have iPad slots and short connecting leads designed for the smaller models, that make it hard or impossible to connect the new, bigger iPad Pro satisfactorily).
It’s worth pointing out that this is not a “brand new” program, even though it has a new name, pitch and price point. That’s not to say it isn’t a huge step forwards, just that if you’ve used Algoriddim’s djay or vjay products before, there’s much here that will feel familiar, as the program is basically an amalgamation of djay Pro on the Mac, and djay 2 and vjay on iPad – albeit with a considerable number of bells and whistles thrown in on top. Hence the “Pro” moniker…
The first screen
The first, main screen is the “two decks” view, and is the closest to what users of the majority of previous Algoriddim apps will be familiar with. The switchable EQ, FX, looping and cue panels are similar, for instance, as are the basic transport controls and the big crossfader at the bottom of the screen.
Unlike previous apps from Algoriddim, though, there’s a button that lets you hide the majority of the mixer controls, making the decks and waveforms nice and big. However, as this view is probably going to be used by DJs with external controllers, we think it should have gone further and hidden the crossfader and transport controls, too.
Across the top of the app are small waveforms as per previous Algoriddim apps, the settings and automix menus (more later), a record/session history button, and a selection of views, which we’ll come on to next.
The waveform views
As well as the more traditional two-deck view just described, there’s a choice of four “waveform” views, because you get to choose horizontal or vertical waveforms, and whether you have two or four of them. If you go for four, you get four panels, one for each deck, across the bottom, containing volume faders, pitch faders, autoloop, gain, sync and keylock features, as well as VU meters.
If you use the hide/unhide button to display the rest of the mixer controls, especially in four-deck view, the screen gets pretty busy pretty fast, as you now have the EQ/FX/loop/cue panels for each deck, too.
There are some pretty innovative implementations of features common to much pro DJ software here. For instance, a little dropdown on each waveform handles zoom (in/out), slip mode, and slicer, the latter making full use of the touchscreen to give easy playing of segments within a slice. This comes into its own on four deck view. You can also edit beatgrids “on the fly”, and the beatgrid engine seems pretty accurate, able to hand non-perfect beats (ie from live drummers) as well as straight electronic rhythms.
Algoriddim has never been a fan of the paradigm of having DJ controls top half, library bottom half of the screen; to switch to the library, you tap a flashing button top left or right that says “tap to load song” (in two deck platter view), or a similar button by the deck in the other views, and go to your choice of either an overlay window or a whole new view.
Not much has changed over other Algoriddim software here; you get to choose between your local files and Spotify, you can play locally stored videos (more on video in a short while), and your playlists are all present and correct. An Echonest-powered feature called “Match” suggests tracks based on the current track you’re playing, which is fun to have, and Spotify charts are available too.
Spotify remains one of the big pulls of the software and having streaming music right there in DJ software is a lot of fun. With djay Pro you get to stream in 320kbps, too, but Spotify continues to suffer the issue of “This track is not available in your country” when you try and load certain songs, when really such songs should just be excluded from searches and results.
Also, with Apple Music now a reality (and djay products traditionally so well tied in with iTunes and the iOS Music app) one thing djay Pro misses is the ability to play tracks from Apple Music subscriptions. This is a holy grail that the company should push hard for, as it’d push djay Pro out into a class of its own instantly. As it is, while you can tell djay Pro not to display music in the cloud, you can’t tell it not to display music you’ve playlisted or added to your collection from Apple Music, which needs fixing.
It is also possible to play music held locally outside of iTunes (ie the Music app); I tested it with Google Drive, iCloud and Dropbox, and it works with all three, but best with the first two.
The video view
Now I’m the first to admit I am not a video specialist, I can honestly say I went through the whole “MTV years” giving zero fricks about video. It’s always been music, music, music with me. That said, the video features here appear to this layman to be pretty impressive.
There is a bunch of video content already available, and music videos you’ve bought in iTunes can be played too. There are also (perhaps more usefully) video effects, that react to the audio you’re playing, and can be manipulated on touchscreen video screens, that also include “AV effects” – effects that work on sound as well as visuals (things like echo, strobe, crush etc). You can overlay text, attach photos to shaped and spin them around, and even use the built-in camera to add live visuals if you like.
Most interestingly for me, you can output the whole lot via AirPlay (say to an Apple TV – so great to DJ at parties with visuals on a large TV, for example), or HDMI, through an adaptor. You can also split the audio and video, which gives you two crossfaders. You can play up to four audio tracks and two 4K video tracks at once!
You don’t need to use the Smart Keyboard by any means (as we said earlier, you don’t need to even use iPad Pro; any modern iPad will do), but having it adds an intriguing new dimension to the app.
By holding down the “command” key for a few seconds, you can get the app to display a list of keyboard shortcuts. You can browse, load and preview tracks, crossfade and transition, jump to and set start and cue points, and control loops, tempo and various other essentials. The shortcuts only work over two decks though, and I wanted to see nudge (or “pitch bend”) shortcuts, as without them, manual beatmatching using just the keyboard is close to impossible.
Automix is here too as with previous Algoriddim software, which is a perfectly fine “background music” and party mode, especially when you align it with Spotify so it can just play forever. As with previous Algoriddim apps, you can buy FX packs (indeed, you can load those you bought previously here, too). The sampler is the same as in previous vesions, but the app’s vertical view is an improvement; instead of just showing a single deck, vertical (“portrait”) view defaults to a vertical waveform two-deck layout. Sadly we couldn’t use it this way with an external controller (at least, not with the Reloop Beatpad 2) as the lead with the controller isn’t long enough!
All the other features this range of software is known for – innovative effects (if not as fully featured as, say, Traktor’s, even when you’ve upgraded them fully with in-app purchases), touchscreen X/Y pads for various controls, smooth Retina graphics, good key analysis and cloud metadata sync, are all present and correct; as we said at the start, this is amazing for how far it’s taken iOS DJing even when judged against Algoriddim’s other iOS apps, which is why it’s primarily those new things that we’ve concentrated on the most here.
Really, I marvel at how far things have come. Here is 4K video mixing, four channels of audio mixing, a plethora of FX and other digital goodies, 20 million streaming tracks, keyboard control – in short, a piece of DJ software that doesn’t compromise over any laptop software at all, yet it’s squashed into a tablet!
In a way, djay Pro for iPad is good because it shows the possibilities for the future, and also in a way, therin lie its weaknesses. You can’t easily use it with existing hardware designed for Algoriddim software, at least not on the iPad Pro, because that hardware wasn’t designed for the new, larger tablet. Unlike djay Pro for the Mac, it isn’t currently mapped to work with “pro” DJ booth equipment, so you can’t roll up to a club and with a single lead, take control of, say, a Pioneer Nexus system. And the cloud/iTunes features could do with some workflow improvements, as stated above, plus offline mode if it’s to be taken seriously by a pro audience.
What you have got here is more than glimpse of that potential, though. The Smart Keyboard very much blurs the lines between tablet and laptop, and mobile DJs particularly will see the benefit of having an easy (and wipe clean) keyboard at hand for quick request searching. Spotify onboard is great. Plus really smartly, the app lets you sync beatgrid changes, cues and other metadata in the cloud, even against Spotify tracks, so it’s totally feasible to use djay 2 on your phone to audition tunes, practise mixes, and prepare, then DJ “live” with this or indeed with djay Pro on your Mac – same library, same prep work. for the digital-friendly, this is great stuff.
Cynics may well say that Algoriddim launched this app simply to have another revenue stream on the App Store (as of course companies can’t charge for upgrades), but to counter that, djay Pro for iPad is like the company’s previous two iOS apps in one, and has practically all of djay Pro for Mac thrown into the mix too – so it’s hardly just an upgrade.
What we need to see now is some more “pro” hardware integrations (Midi mapping and DVS would be on any ambitious roadmap), some of the library niggles ironing out, and for me a more exensive keyboard shortcut list (or the ability for users to edit them), and djay Pro would be close to a perfect iOS DJ platform. Even as it is, if you don’t already own a DJ app and you have a modern iPad or an iPad Pro, this is the one to go for. How many pro or pro-leaning DJs do choose to go for it, of course, remains to be seen…